Welcome to Heart of the Sky Fair Trade! My name is Melinda Van Slyke and I am based out of Spring Green, Wisconsin.
After college I went to Guatemala for a year where I was a human rights observer in a small village on the south coast. I'm not sure how familiar you are with recent Guatemalan history so bear with me if you are already familiar with this. In short, during the height of the Guatemalan civil war (roughly the early to mid 80s) hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans, primarily indigenous maya, fled into Mexico where they lived in refugee camps. The Peace Accords were signed in 1996, and part of the accords was that the refugees were to have an organized return. Naturally there was concern about this, as their government had actively attempted to commit genocide against them. The refugees organized and demanded to have international observers in their communities as they returned and rebuilt. So I did that for a year, just living in the village. The idea was that a) my physical presence would be dissuasive, in other words, that the army would be less apt to come in and massacre if there was an international present and/or b) if there was an overt act there there would be someone there to document it and get the word out quickly.
I've remained very active in Guatemala solidarity work. I've been on the board of directors of the Network In Solidarity With The People Of Guatemala for a number of years, and I'm proud to say that for the past few years I've been president of the board.http://www.nisgua.org
Along the way I began bringing back textiles and jewelry for friends and family, and that has eventually evolved into Heart of the Sky Fair Trade.