19529 Vashon Hwy SW, 
Vashon Island, WA 98070


19529 Vashon Hwy SW, 
Vashon Island, WA 98070




Mon. thru Fri. 7am-6pm
Saturday 8am-5pm
Sunday 9am-4pm


Mon. thru Fri. 8am-6pm
Sat. 8am-5pm
Sun. 9am-4pm

 Sister City

I thought it might be interesting for people to read about the early beginnings of a ” Sister City” project here on Vashon. This letter came to me in a personal letter from Laura Robb, one of the original islanders who traveled to this region to make a difference.

"By December 1990 the residents of Santiago Atitlan, a cobblestone town on the shores of a windswept lake in the highlands of Guatemala, had had enough of the government’s army. Throughout the 1980’s, the army carried out abductions, tortures, disappearances and forced conscriptions. Santiago had lost hundreds of its citizens to the random terror of a government of the powerful.

Nationally and internationally, the press carried pictures of the dead lying at the garrison’s gates. The townspeople were assured of an investigation and their demands for change were met. The army was immediately and permanently removed from the community. The people themselves formed the Committee for Security and Development whose work includes nightly patrols by volunteers carrying flashlights and whistles.

The leaders of Santiago Atitlan put out a call for support. They calculated that if international attention had won them their freedom from the military’s control, it would also be important in continuing the peace. Jeremy Bigwood, a photographer and newsman who had long covered the region, connected the community’s needs with his friends on Vashon Island. Bigwood passed along the word that Santiago Atitlan would appreciate some help in their effort to live independently of the Guatemalan Army. He suggested a sister community relationship along the lines of the bond between Bainbridge Island-Ometepe, Nicaragua.

A small committee on Vashon took up the project. David Vogel led the group and received support from the Vashon Community Council. Starting in 1991, visitors from Vashon were welcomed in Santiago. At first, the group focused on aiding the town’s clinic and school with money and materials. A local doctor donated a microscope, and the committee delivered it along with school and art supplies.

Luckily, the committee made a connection with Jim Stewart of SBC. Stewart saw the potential of developing a mutually beneficial trade with the organic coffee growers in Santiago. Stewart’s visits resulted in a commercial arrangement that directs some of the profits from the coffee business directly into the town’s infrastructure. The town’s school got an addition and their clinic was further enlarged.

The sister community relationship foundered, however, when politics came into play. Members of the Committee for Security and Development in Santiago had divergent ideas about the nature of help they wanted. Some wanted construction help for town projects, but some requested consumer goods for themselves, or help in visiting the U.S.

Many members of the Vashon committee who wanted to help felt confused and ill equipped at that time to sort out the problems of development within the Santiago community. Meanwhile, more experienced development aid groups from various states and countries had joined the effort to protect Santiago from the return of the military encroachment, and the Vashon committee concluded that the loss of their aid would not be felt by the community."

The original travelers from Vashon couldn’t have known what the future of their thoughtful efforts would be, but from these early beginnings new groups and ideas and renewed interest and awareness of this living Guatemala Project is forming while the original project continues today.

Jim Stewart, for the last 15 years has continued his charitable ties and support of the original Sister City Project in Santiago through the sales coffee. The Guatemalan Sister City Coffee is available at The Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie. A part of the proceeds from the sale of this now, world-class coffee continues to directly benefit these people as well as other Foundation projects.

You can learn more about The Vashon Island Coffee Foundation created from this first mission by Jim Stewart with contributions in the beginning from Kerri Goodman and other island residents on our website at www.tvicr.com ~ Eva ~