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DeWitt woman sows threads of hope abroad

Chumanzana, a small town in Guatemala, has a new thread store, employment for local women, and the possibility of a better quality of life.

Maurine McTyre-Watts, proprietor of Fair World Marketplace in Dewitt, is the woman responsible for this accomplishment.

In 2004, McTyre-Watts founded her store with the goal of encouraging social justice and economic independence for disadvantaged people across the globe. Her store sells entirely fair-trade goods, meaning she works directly in partnership with artisans to help them develop a sustainable income. McTyre-Watts and other fair traders strive to move beyond the traditional idea of donating money to those in need. They hope to improve lives.

"To change poverty you really have to address an individual's ability to care for themselves and to support their own family," McTyre-Watts said.

Although McTyre-Watts contributes to outreach programs globally, she has made focused efforts in Guatemala. Her most recent project involved teaming with Syracuse University. In January 2010, she traveled to Chumanzana, Guatemala, with five SU students and an SU professor.

Together the group worked with a group of Mayan women to build a thread store. This July, she will travel to Guatemala with her daughter to check on the success of the women and the store. She will also look for ways to further develop opportunities for the people of Guatemala.

Chumanzana, the site of the thread store, is a major source of interest for McTyre-Watts on the upcoming trip. It has only been six months since she facilitated the establishment of the store, and the enormity of the effort is still forefront in her mind.

"It was very intense," McTyre-Watts. "We worked on this store from morning until night, late at night when it was dark."

McTyre-Watts and the SU team brought in thread, display cases, and other materials from towns outside of Chumanzana. In addition to cleaning and painting the store, the Syracuse team needed to teach the local women how to maintain a business.

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