As a distinguished alumna of Little Flower Academy, Catherine Koch’s picture hangs on LFA’s walls, and her name is on the Vancouver school’s Distinguished Alumnae Award list.
So it was with heavy hearts that the school community gathered in prayer after learning the 1975 graduate had died unexpectedly, leaving a legacy of humanitarianism that raised more than a million dollars to help orphaned children and caregivers in Africa through poverty relief and education advancement.
Koch was the founder of Love is the Answer, a charity that provides food, medicine, and supplies in emergency situations, financial assistance for schooling and boarding, and assists with setting up income-generating programs for Ugandans.
Through Love is the Answer, Koch built three primary schools and a dormitory, providing orphans and those supporting orphans a safe and supportive place to learn.
In a statement, LFA said Koch “made a career out of service to others” and “embodied the values we hold most dear: spirituality, integrity, respect, compassionate service, personal excellence, and simplicity.”
In a 2019 interview with The B.C. Catholic, Koch related how as a teenager she would burst into tears when TV commercials came on showing images of emaciated African children. By the time she graduated she knew she wanted to volunteer in developing countries.
Lacking the post-secondary degrees needed for international aid work at the time, her dreams of foreign missionary work were postponed until she was in her 40s and both of her parents died 10 months apart.
“Within five years of the passing of my parents, I started to realize through dreams and even visions that I was being called again, reminded, to answer the calls of children who were suffering, as if I could hear them crying,” said told The B.C. Catholic.
After learning about the plight of African children affected by HIV/AIDS, especially in Uganda, and Koch found her direction. In 2007, she sold her house and flew to Uganda. For the next nine months, she lived among orphans and poor families, helped provide mosquito nets and bedding, paid tuition and other expenses for a couple of university students, and supported other initiatives by local NGOs.
She was deeply moved by orphaned children raising their younger siblings, by poor girls married at 15 because their families needed the dowry payment, by parents who had to bury their children, by grandparents who had to raise their grandchildren, and by communities living without drinking water, electricity, or access to education.
By 2011, she incorporated her non-profit Love is the Answer.
“In a word, the best way to describe us is ‘love,’” Koch told supporters when she was visiting Vancouver in 2019. “I just want them to know how special they are.”
A statement from the organization’s board said “Catherine lived an exemplary life. She believed that love is a limitless resource, a sure guide, and the answer to many of life’s problems. Catherine will be remembered for the dedication, devotion, and love she shared with countless orphaned and vulnerable children in Uganda.”
LFA said it hoped the picture of Koch hanging at the school “serves as a reminder and testament to our students of the importance of living for more than oneself.”