Meet our team!


Guadalupe Ramírez, AlterNatives Founder, AMA Director

Guadalupe Ramírez was born in the town of Tejutla, San Marcos, in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. Descendants of slaves, Guadalupe and her family struggled to maintain their health and well-being in a poverty-stricken community until their lives were transformed when nuns from Belgium arrived after Vatican II to foster liberation through education and empowerment. Guadalupe’s father was selected to participate in a cooperative leader training program, subsequently becoming a leader in the cooperative movement. The change fostered by the organization of cooperatives was substantial and long lasting, one generation later, her family now contains one sister who is an accountant, another sister a schoolteacher, the third sister has her MBA, and the youngest is working on a postgraduate degree in chemical engineering.
Spending much of her childhood in cooperatives meetings, Guadalupe learned that people could change their lives for the better by working together. While there are serious challenges confronting indigenous communities, the practices of consensus and community action have allowed her people to survive centuries of injustice and marginalization.
Guadalupe is also the owner of AlterNatives, a store that carries fairly and directly traded, handmade gifts and jewelry, and, whether she’s at a wrestling match, lacrosse, or a football game, she is the best sideline support her two sons could ask for.


Ben Blevins CFO, Highland Support Project 

Ben Blevins was “radicalized” after a mission trip during his freshman year of college to Central America. As one minister said, “he was someone who took the volunteer in mission experience more seriously than the church intended.” While appreciating the life-changing benefits of the experience, Ben was concerned by the negative impacts of the mission program on local communities. While not understanding anything about social work or community development, it was obvious that the programming promoted by the church was exasperating problems rather than empowering native populations.

Originally enrolled in college as a Theater major, Ben’s experience prompted his switch to a study in economic development in the Third World (not his choice of language). Ben was most interested in how to foster transformational experiences to raise awareness and passion for social justice amongst North American youth through cross-cultural experiences while at the same time promoting sustainable and just development for partner communities. After graduating from the University of Richmond, he traveled to Guatemala as a human rights worker, and in the early 1990s, he became aware of the cooperatives movement and experienced the positive long-term benefits the movement accomplished. He was “sold” on the potential for small business development as a more appropriate response to the causes of poverty than the dependency-laden models of charity and child sponsorship programs.

Ben is also the Co-founder of AlterNatives and managing trustee of Common Good Trust, a holding company for socially responsible business ventures that are developed to put into practice ethical standards and ecological sustainability. Ben is also an Eagle Scout, high school offensive line coach, avid drummer, and vegan baker. His latest development is a fabulous recipe for tofu-based blueberry crepes.

Brian Blevins-Ramirez, Store Manager, Director of The Alley