Smita Jacob and Mihai Patru together bring on board twenty years of experience in international development and international affairs. The two met while pursuing a mid-career graduate program at Johns Hopkins University -Washington DC and instantly connected on their shared commitment to ethical fashion and international development. Stepping back from their secure careers, Smita and Mihai launched GuaTela in February 2017 and are currently engaged full time in this venture.
Smita is a development professional with a decade of experience designing and managing rural development projects. For over five years, Smita worked with UNDP and Government of India on a flagship poverty alleviation program, mobilizing rural women into livelihood collectives in North Eastern India - a conflict affected region of the country with a high concentration of indigenous communities. Taking forward her passion to work on preserving ethnic weaves and empowering indigenous communities, Smita envisioned GuaTela. She graduated from Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies with a Masters in International Public Policy.
Mihai started his professional career with the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs where he focused on Middle East issues. In 2013, he was awarded the U.S. State Department Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellowship and, a year later, joined the SAIS Center for Transatlantic Relations, Washington DC, as a Senior Fellow where he developed a human rights initiative. His long time interest in social entrepreneurship and sustainable development started to take a clear shape while attending the graduate professional program at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies in Washington DC. He was involved in the launching of Caravanserai Project, a 501(c)(3) based in Washington DC.
Prior to his role at GuaTela, Rony - a native of Peru - has worked in boutique consulting and in policy-making as a Congressional Hispanic Leadership Fellow. Besides his keen interest in social entrepreneurship, he is passionate about social innovation, financial inclusion, infrastructure development, and industrialization as key factors for social and economic development. Currently, Rony is pursuing a Masters program at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, concentrating in international economics and international finance.
Melissa is a Guatemalan industrial designer, graduated from Rafael Landívar University. One of the main reasons she chose this profession is to create positive change in Guatemala, helping the impoverished to overcome their daily challenges by using her skills and abilities. She has years of experience working in diverse rural communities in Guatemala as a translator for missionary groups. Her passion lies in designing products that are sustainable and that contribute to the improvement of quality of life.
Andres is an industrial designer, living in Guatemala City. He has been professionally engaged in different areas, focusing on advertisement, furniture design and appropriate design. Andres participated in the International Development Design Summit at MIT (2008 to 2010), where he was involved in different projects from a low cost incubator for new born babies to an adapter to treat bamboo for construction. Besides his interests in art, history and design, he loves Photography, takes Sculpture lessons and always tries to learn from new experiences. For more about work as a photographer click here.
As a 501(c)(3), Caravanserai Project is a nonpartisan, non-profit initiative managed and operated by a group of experienced professionals whose main goal is to promote social and economic global progress by connecting relevant constituencies, and bridging gaps between different cultures and environments through the development of unique, down-to-earth and fully accountable projects.