When Hands For Peacemaking founders Leeon Aller MD and his wife Virginia first went to the Santa Cruz Barillas area of Guatemala, the country was in the middle of a 36 year long civil war. Many families fled the area to surrounding countries. Those that stayed often found an education for their children a very low priority.
It was very risky for children to make the daily walk to villages (sometimes an hour away or more), just to go to school. For those who were did attend school, they would most often only continue their education through the third grade before they would go to work in the fields to help support their families.
Hands For Peacemaking Foundation decided to do something about this problem and through the help of sponsoring organizations such as the Marysville and South Everett-Mukilteo Rotary, they began to build much needed school buildings in villages that either lacked a school or had one that needed addition classrooms.
It was decided early on that building the schools were only part of the solution. Providing the students with properly made school desks, white boards and teacher’s desks were a key part of the student’s ability to learn. It is with great appreciation for people like Mrs. Betty Rodland who offered to donate the desks and white board for each school that the Rotary team built. Without people like Betty the Hands for Peacemaking foundation could not completely address the many needs that the typical Mayan villager has.
After a couple of years, the HFPF staff decided that they would design and build the school desks and white boards rather than buying them from other regions in the country. To date, they have built over 10,000 school desks and are the largest manufacturer of desks in the Barillas area.
Villagers like the desks built by the Hands For Peacemaking team because of their excellent quality and the fact that they last much longer than other desks. What started out as a way to help students have a better learning environment has now grown into a business that employs 9 local people, giving them hope for a brighter tomorrow and improving the local economy.