When Hands For Peacemaking founders Dr. Leeon Aller 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, and in complete turmoil.
Many families fled the area to surrounding countries. Those that stayed found that providing an education for their children had become a very low priority.
It was very risky for children to make the daily walk to villages (sometimes an hour or more away), just to go to school. Those who did attend school, would most often only continue their education through the third grade before they were forced to go to work in the fields in order 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 Rotaries, they began to build much needed school buildings in villages that either lacked a school, or had one that needed additional classrooms.
It was determined early on, that building the schools was 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. We greatly appreciate 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, Hands For Peacemaking Foundation could not adequately 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, we have built over 11,000 school desks, and are the largest manufacturer of desks in the Barillas area.
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.
Villagers really 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.
TEACHING NEW SKILLS
Hands For Peacemaking also provides opportunities for villagers to learn new skills such as candle-making, embroidery, and gardening. And through the Aller Skill Center, we teach welding, manufacturing, assembly, and other skills that lead to employment opportunities. Programs such as these help villagers become entrepreneurs using their new skills, and lift themselves out of poverty—creating opportunities for a brighter tomorrow.