Rumario: To provide for his ailing uncle and 8 others in his family, this young man became a welder.

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Rumario started out welding like most other young people in Guinea-Bissau who want to learn a trade skill: He found someone who’s already working, and watched and learned. In West Africa, these informal internships are common. But they have many shortcomings, including inconsistent quality and a lack of tools to practice with.

Rumario’s extended family of nine people – including an ill uncle – were relying on him to provide for them, and the internship wasn’t cutting it. Rumario knew he could do better.

One day, he came across a local welder named Papa Mendes who was doing impressive work. Papa told him that he had learned how to weld at West African Vocational Schools (WAVS). So Rumario enrolled in the nine-month course at the WAVS School. He worked weekends and evenings to pay for his tuition. And thanks to WAVS Teacher Sponsors who help cover the cost of the welding course, the fees were affordable for Rumario – less than $10/month.

The training was exactly what Rumario needed. After graduating in 2016, he opened up a makeshift workshop.

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“I have a lot of work now that I have graduated and have the skills and tools to do good work,” Rumario said while showing off his shop. “Before, I worked for others and got very little money. Now, I am doing my own jobs!” 

Rumario said the quality of his work has improved dramatically.

“Before my WAVS course, I just welded, but didn’t know how to check the quality of my welds,” he said. “At the school, I learned to check the quality of my welds to see if they are good, and if not, how to fix them.” 

His clients have noticed the difference.

“They come to me to do their work because they see that I do quality work,” Rumario said.

Rumario also benefited from the WAVS New Entrepreneur’s Program (NEP), which allowed him to purchase new tools at a discounted price. He said the tools have helped improve the quality of his work and attracted more clients.

Rumario shares his adobe brick workshop with a local carpenter. It sits on a main road next to the town’s transit center. He pays for his share of the electricity to run a generator. With the steady income from his workshop, Rumario and his brother, a mechanic, are now able to provide for their extended family.

“WAVS gave me the training and experience I needed to be confident enough to take any job related to welding and do it,” Rumario said. “Now I have the courage to do any job I want to do.”  

And Rumario doesn’t want to stop here.

“I’ve learned a lot, but my dream is to learn more,” he said.

This article was written by Holly Collins, WAVS Board Adviser.

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Each student pays tuition for the courses they take, but this only covers about 25% of the total cost. The remainder of the costs are covered by generous donors like you. By sponsoring a teacher at the WAVS School, you help cover the costs of the teacher's department and open up new opportunities in life for young people like Rumario.

Rosa: This high school student worked in a rock quarry so she could afford English classes. Now she's a teacher.

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I sat next to Rosa on the veranda of her family home – a home made out of mud bricks that she and her family had dug out of the earth around them and were later hardened under the unrelenting sun. Her mother sat nearby, her coarse hands revealing a woman no stranger to physical labor. She brought over a basket of peanuts and pointed to the land in front of us, deep furrows in the earth marking the rows where those peanuts were harvested from just a few months earlier.
 
Growing up in Guinea-Bissau, Rosa’s mother and her family depended on the harvest. There was no time for an education. And hence this became her lot in life: hard labor to keep a family going. 

Without an education, this woman’s hands have only grown more coarse over time. Besides harvesting peanuts, she also breaks rocks and sells them to construction workers. At the local rock quarry, she methodically works through a seemingly bottomless pile of rocks each day – striking them one at a time with an iron rod – as she sits under a sliver of shade to guard her from the African sun.
 
A generation later, not much has changed: In this tiny corner of West Africa where two out of three people live off less than $2 a day, you must work hard just to survive.

Rosa’s mother, a widow raising seven children, wanted more for her daughters and always encouraged them to pursue an education. But when Rosa, her youngest, asked for money to study English at the WAVS School, she was heartbroken to turn her down. Feeding her children was all she could afford.

But Rosa found a way. Even though she was just starting high school, she also joined her mom to work at the rock quarry. With the money she earned from breaking rocks, Rosa enrolled in an English language course at West African Vocational Schools. Thanks to WAVS Teacher Sponsors who help cover the cost of the course, the fees were affordable for Rosa – less than $10/month.

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“I knew that if I work hard now, I can achieve my dream of an education and a future professional job – not breaking rocks in the rock quarry” Rosa said.

I asked Rosa, now 19, what she hopes to do with her English language skills.
 
“Oh, many things!” she told me, gleaming. She laid out her dreams of studying international relations, possibly becoming a diplomat, or working at the seaport as a liaison for international organizations. I could picture her broad warm smile greeting people from all over the world.
 
Earlier this year, Rosa graduated from the WAVS School’s English program. This June, she will graduate from high school. Soon, she’ll apply to a university. In the meantime, Rosa has already found a way to use her new language skill. She is teaching 10th graders at a private school two days a week. Even though the salary isn’t much, Rosa sees the value of the job.
 
”I don’t do it for the money,” she said. “I do it for the experience and to continue to practice my English.”
 
I can’t wait to sit down with Rosa again in a few years to see where her dreams have taken her. Maybe her hands will be a little softer than her mother’s, though I imagine that the spirit of hard work that she inherited will never go away.
 

This article was written by Holly Collins, WAVS Board Adviser.


The education that Rosa received at the WAVS School has given her new opportunities and hope. You can equip young people like Rosa with the skills they need to provide for themselves and their families -- for a lifetime.

Each student pays tuition for the courses they take, but this only covers about 25% of the total cost. The remainder of the costs are covered by generous donors like you. By sponsoring a teacher at the WAVS School, you help cover the costs of the teacher's department and open up new opportunities in life for young people like Rosa.

Bruno's dreams evolve with his education from the WAVS School.

 Bruno at the small thatch-covered roadside shop where he works.

Bruno at the small thatch-covered roadside shop where he works.

As a little boy in Guinea-Bissau, Bruno would sit in class daydreaming of one day becoming a famous soccer player like the ones pictured on the front of a notebook he brought to school every day.  But when he would get home, Bruno’s mom would push him out the door to go learn from the auto mechanics in the shop across the street while she struggled to support her family by raising pigs.

She wanted her youngest child to have the practical job skills she knew he would need in order to survive in Guinea-Bissau, one of the poorest countries in the world. Bruno, now 22, is thankful for his mother’s tough love.

“I’m really happy my Mom knew better and encouraged me to do this,” he said.

At the age of 12, Bruno's mother passed away. His father had died a few years earlier. But both parents left a legacy that influenced him -- his mother through her encouragement to learn job skills, and his father through the example he set by working as an engineer for the city’s power department

These days, such engineering jobs are hard to come by. Following the 11-year war for independence, the expulsion of colonial powers, a civil war, and ongoing governmental power struggles over the last 30 years, not much infrastructure is left in the country. Reliable electricity is virtually non-existent.

But Bruno has found a way to make the most of the life he has been given. Recently, he completed an auto mechanics course at the WAVS School and he now works for a friend in a small thatch-covered roadside shop not far from his childhood home.

When I visited him earlier this year, I found Bruno leaning over an engine he had opened up and was meticulously rebuilding for a client.

He proudly told me that “all the machines I have worked on now are still running, I am good at this work. My parents would be happy to see me working now”.  

When he enrolled in the auto mechanics course, Bruno had never actually opened up an engine, despite his years as an informal apprentice at the shop outside of his childhood home. At the WAVS School, though, he gained the hands-on experience and training he needed to start working for clients.

Bruno checking an engine
“All the machines I have worked on now are still running, I am good at this work. My parents would be happy to see me working now”.  — Bruno

I watched Bruno work away. Piece by piece, the engine came back together under the hands of one of the country’s newly trained mechanics. It seemed to be a metaphor for the larger work of rebuilding Guinea-Bissau that WAVS envisions for the country.

Today, Bruno has new dreams. He hopes to move to the capital, Bissau, and work in one of the larger mechanics shops that offer a good salary. With his new diploma in hand, this is now more possible than ever before.

This article was written by Holly Collins, WAVS Board Adviser.


Bruno can now dream of a future where he can use his skills to earn a good salary. You can equip young people like Bruno with the skills they need to provide for themselves and their families -- for a lifetime.

Each student pays tuition for the courses they take, but this only covers about 25% of the total cost. The remainder of the costs are covered by generous donors like you. By sponsoring a teacher at the WAVS School, you help cover the costs of the teacher's department and open up new opportunities in life for young people like Bruno.

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Fatherhood awaits 'Papa.' But how will he provide for his family?

PELUNDO, GUINEA-BISSAU – He’s gone by the name “Papa” his whole life, but soon he’ll be a father for the first time.

Papa Mendes, 32, and his wife are expecting their first child in a few months. But in Guinea-Bissau – one of the world’s smallest and poorest countries – providing for your family isn’t easy. The education system is in tatters; the economy is fragile; and steady jobs are rare.


“It was my dream to open my own shop,” Papa said. “My dream has now turned into reality.”

That dream didn’t come easily.


But Papa is determined. Every morning, he rolls off a thin, plastic mat that passes for a bed and walks out of his 10-by-10-foot mud-brick room. Outside, about 20 feet away under a shade tree, he lays out a handful of tools on a metal table, cranks up a generator, and goes to work.

Papa is the village welder. It’s not a glamorous job, but Papa couldn’t be happier.

“It was my dream to open my own shop,” said Papa, flashing his constant smile. “My dream has now turned into reality.”

That dream didn’t come easily.

***

Papa grew up in a tiny village. Every spring, he and his family would harvest cashews from the trees that surrounded their village and sell them. But cashews – Guinea-Bissau’s cash crop – are an unreliable source of income. The weather, environment, and global markets are constantly in flux. One year, the harvest would bring in enough cash for Papa’s family to survive the next 12 months; the next year, it would leave them destitute.

After his father died in 2011, Papa was determined to find a more reliable way to provide for himself and his family. He heard a radio ad about welding classes at the WAVS School in Canchungo, a town just a few miles from his village. The cost of the class was affordable – less than $10 a month. He immediately signed up.

“I didn’t want to just work in the fields my whole life,” Papa said. “I wanted a different profession – because in this world, things are always changing.”

With his quick smile and positive attitude, Papa was quickly elected by his fellow welding students as the chefe de alunos –  the student representative for the class. Papa had never held a welding torch before, but over the next nine months he learned how to transform steel rods and metal sheets into chairs, tables, doors, and windows.

After graduating, a Portuguese businessman hired Papa to work at his welding shop. In February 2014, I went to visit Papa at the workshop. He smiled and eagerly shook my hand. There was no hiding his enthusiasm.

“Now I’m not afraid of anything,” Papa told me at the time. “I can apply what I’ve learned and do a lot of the work with my own hands. I have a skill and I need to use it to be self-sufficient.”

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***

In a country like Guinea-Bissau, it was quite the accomplishment for Papa to go from an unskilled and unemployed young man to a working professional within a year. It seemed like life was moving in the right direction.

But a few weeks after I visited Papa, the businessman folded up his workshop and returned to Portugal. Soon, Papa was back among the mass of young, unemployed women and men in Guinea-Bissau – a country where half the population is less than 18 years old.

So like many young people desperate for a job, Papa moved to the capital, Bissau, where food and rent are more expensive, but there’s a better chance of employment. He connected with a friend who had a small outdoor welding workshop. For the next three years, Papa welded doors, windows, gates and anything else that customers brought to him.

But for Papa, who longed for the village life, a career working in the capital city was not his dream. Three years later, Papa had finally saved up enough money for his own welder and generator. Last August, he moved into his tiny, mud-brick room in Pelundo, and opened his shop along the main road.

“I can now be independent,” Papa told me when I visited him at his shop earlier this year. “I now have my own shop. Now I just want to see how I can make it better.”

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***

Today, Papa is passing on his knowledge to others. A few weeks after he opened his shop, a man walked up to him and asked if his nephew could work as Papa’s apprentice. Papa said yes. When I visited Papa, his apprentice was assisting him while a few villagers sat on a nearby bench and looked on. In sleepy Pelundo, Papa’s workshop passes for entertainment.

“People here in the village were happy when I started the shop,” Papa said. “There are 25 village compounds in the area and the people need a lot of doors and windows welded.”

With a steady stream of work coming his way, Papa is now earning an income that will allow him to care for his wife and child, as well as help support his mother, who still works in the cashew orchards. The journey hasn’t been easy and the future is unpredictable, but Papa is ready to face it head-on, always with a smile.

“Everything I have here is because of my experience at the school,” he said. “In this work, I can sustain myself. I don’t want to stop. I don’t want to end the vision here.”

This article was written by Chris Collins, WAVS Executive Director.

***

Papa's success story was only made possible because he was given an opportunity and he made the most of it. You can equip young people like Papa with the skills they need to provide for themselves and their families -- for a lifetime.

Each student pays tuition for the courses they take, but this only covers about 25% of the total cost. The remainder of the costs are covered by generous donors like you. By sponsoring a teacher at the WAVS School, you help cover the costs of the teacher's department and open up new opportunities in life for young people like Papa.

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Despite resistance from his family, Ronaldo is pursuing an education — and his faith.

  Ronaldo (left) with some of his friends at the WAVS School. 

Ronaldo (left) with some of his friends at the WAVS School. 

Ronaldo grew up in a small village called Tame. A few times each day, a truck rolls through the village on the dusty road that serves as the community’s only lifeline to the outside world. If you can catch a ride, a bumpy journey through the forest takes you to the town of  Canchungo.

Ronaldo made that trip when he was 16 so he could attend high school in Canchungo. After enrolling, he heard about the WAVS School – the only school in Canchungo providing job-skills training – and he signed up for its computer basics class. He enjoyed the class so much, that he also enrolled in the school’s English class.
Ronaldo has had to work hard to keep up his studies at both his high school and the WAVS School. His mother didn’t go to school and doesn’t understand why he’s enrolled in so many classes.


“The best thing about the school is the skills I am learning. I can use these skills throughout the rest of my life.” - Ronaldo, WAVS School student

“It’s still difficult to convince my mother of the importance of school,” Ronaldo said.  His family has also resisted Ronaldo’s decision to become a Christian. Some have even threatened him if he doesn’t renounce his faith. But with the support and encouragement from staff and students at the WAVS School, Ronaldo continues to hold firm in his decision to follow Christ. 

Now a level 3 student in the English program, Ronaldo is quickly becoming a fluent English speaker with the help of his teachers. He said that the English classes at the WAVS School, which are two hours each day, are much more effective than his high school English classes, which were 45 minutes twice a week and lacked the quality of teaching and materials available at the WAVS School.

In the future, Ronaldo wants to go to the capital city, Bissau, to study to become a lawyer.

“The best thing about the school is the skills I am learning,” he said. “I can use these skills throughout the rest of my life.”

We invite you to give more students like Ronaldo the Gift of Education with a year-end, tax-deductible gift. This gift will help train 100 students with life-changing job skills in the first semester of 2018.

Each student pays tuition for the courses they take, but this only covers about 25% of the total cost each semester. The remainder of the costs are covered by generous donors like you. Help us raise $10,000 by December 31 to cover the remaining costs of the courses for these dedicated students. Any amount you give will help reach this goal!

Give the Gift of Education.

Give Opportunity. Give Hope.

 

A few of the welding department's favorite things: church benches, roofs, security gates

A significant advantage for the students in the welding program at the WAVS School is that they get practical, hands-on welding experience in addition to their classroom instruction. The school is often hired by businesses and residents in the community to do projects for them. This real-life experience teaches students the value of doing quality work and allows them to hone their skills for future employment. The revenue from the work also helps offset the cost of the program since the students' tuition only covers about 25% of the total cost of the program.

This last semester, the welding program was very busy with projects! Even with classes for this semester now complete, many students have chosen to come to the school while on vacation so they can continue working because there are still projects to be completed!

Here are just a few of the projects that have been completed or are in progress from this semester:

  • Church Benches: These benches were made for a church in Cadjens, a small village about 30 minutes outside Canchungo. 

  • Security Gates: This is one of the most popular and common items that the students build. They are used to cover windows so they can be left open at night, enclose verandas so that these open-air porches are secure or build a fence around a house or compound. This specific gate was for a woman in the community named Ines, that everyone calls Dona Ines, which means Grandma Ines. 

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  • Roof for local agriculture co-op: The roof was part of a project to build a cashew drying warehouse that was built just down the road from the school at a local co-op called COAJOQ. The project was commissioned by Steves JC, a large engineering company that is also building the new parking complex at the national airport.  Steves JC commissioned these same cashew drying warehouses in different regions around the country. The WAVS School was the last contractor to get a contract, but was able to finish the roof faster than the other four roof contractors. The Steves JC foreman said that the roof the WAVS students built was the best in quality.

This holiday season, you can help equip more welding students with life-changing job skills. We invite you to give the Gift of Education with a year-end tax-deductible gift. This gift will help train 100 students in the first semester of 2018.

Each student pays tuition for the courses they take, but it only covers 25% of the total cost. The remainder of the costs are covered by generous donors like you. Help us raise $10,000 by December 31st to cover the remaining costs of the courses for these dedicated students. Any amount you give will help reach this goal!

Give the gift of Education.

Give Opportunity. Give Hope.

Deusa's WAVS story: How her education gave her new opportunities and hope.

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Deusa was nervous. It was her first day at the WAVS School’s computer basics class and she wasn’t even sure how to hold a computer mouse. But she was confident that she would learn.

After all, her friends who graduated from the WAVS School were now able to speak English, conduct research using the Internet, and create PowerPoint presentations. She imagined how much better she could do her job as a local radio journalist if she, too, had those same skills.

“The reason why I enrolled was because I saw that the students who studied there succeeded and are now using their skills,” Deusa said.

 Deusa applying her computer skills

Deusa applying her computer skills

Six months later, Deusa completed her course. A computer mouse no longer intimidated her.

Now, Deusa is able to type up her stories to be read on the radio instead of writing them out by hand. She is also able to search the Internet for news and report it to her community.

And thanks to her new Excel skills, Deusa was also hired to help keep track of a United Nations school-feeding program in surrounding villages. Every day, she collects data from the villages and returns to her office to enter the information into her spreadsheet.

“The skills I learned are helping me a lot,” Deusa said. “It’s very important to have this school here. It’s a blessing.”

The education that Deusa received at the WAVS School has given her new opportunities and hope. This holiday season, we invite you to give students, like Deusa, the same opportunity. Help us train 100 students with life-changing job skills in the first semester of 2018. Each student pays tuition for the courses they take, but this only covers about 25% of the total cost each semester. Help raise $10,000 before the end of December to cover the remaining costs of the courses for these dedicated students. Any amount you give will help reach this goal.

Give the gift of Education.

Give Opportunity. Give Hope.

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Highlights from the 2017 WAVS Dine & Discover West Africa Dinner Banquet

Thank you to the 550 guests and volunteers who made the 2017 WAVS Dine & Discover West Africa Dinner Banquet such an amazing night! Working together, you helped raise $148,230 to equip young women and men in Guinea-Bissau with life-changing job skills.

Thank you for your incredible generosity and investment in the future leaders of one of the world's smallest and poorest countries. We'll see you next year!

Highlights from the 2017 Banquet


550
Dinner banquet guests


$148,230
Raised at the banquet to equip Guinea-Bissau's future leaders


100%
Percentage of funds raised that goes directly to WAVS (thanks to generous donors and business partners who covered the cost of the banquet)


93
Hard-working volunteers who helped prepare food, set up tables, decorate, and serve at the banquet.

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An interview with the WAVS School director

Lili Mané is the director of the WAVS School and he's proud of what the school has accomplished in the decade it has served the town of Canchungo.

"The courses we are offering have a lot of benefit for the community," Lili said. "It's the only center here in the town of Canchungo that offers this kind of training, so the students can learn to do something in their own villages or towns. ... A lot of people who were trained here in auto mechanics or welding are now working and taking care of their own families."

But Lili also knows that the school's impact goes beyond equipping students with job skills. The school also serves as a platform for its Christian teachers to invest in the spiritual growth of their students.

"The WAVS School believes that to train somebody just to have skills is not enough; it's goal is also to bring people to Christ," Lili said. "That's why in the first 10 minutes of class, we share the word of God, pray together and help each other."

Watch Lili's full interview in the video above.

Lili and his staff are able to invest in the lives of WAVS School students thanks to Teacher Sponsors who help keep tuition affordable while allowing the school to grow and improve every year.

Today, you can sponsor a WAVS School teacher and give young women and men in Guinea-Bissau the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty using their own skills and abilities.

Thank you for making the Wine Tasting & Food Truck Fundraiser a success!

Thank you to the 135 guests and volunteers who joined us last Friday to enjoy a relaxing evening at Kings River Winery (near Sanger) while supporting the WAVS welding program.

Together, we enjoyed delicious food, local wine, and a live performance from violinist Patrick Contreras. And you helped raise more than $4,700 to help make it possible to train more WAVS welding students like Agusto. Thank you!

We also want to give a special thanks to the three people who became WAVS Teacher Sponsors to help grow the WAVS welding program.

Click here for more photos

Don't forget to reserve your seat for the 5th annual WAVS Dine & Discover West Africa Dinner Banquet on Oct. 6 at Engelmann Cellars (10 minutes west of Highway 99). Get your tickets here.

A Day in the Life of a WAVS Welding Student

By Jenna Harvey, Director of International Development

8:00 AM

  Starting the morning off with devotions.

Starting the morning off with devotions.

Class starts at 8 a.m. sharp for the WAVS welding students. Many of the students have been awake since 6 a.m. preparing for the day. There are no bowls of Wheaties or stops at Starbucks to grab a latte before class, but instead the students eat rice with sauce heated up from the night before or bread with either chocolate spread or tuna for breakfast. All of the students walk to school; most of their walks are 10 to 20 minutes in length. Very few people in Guinea-Bissau have a personal or family car so walking or riding a bike are the main modes of transportation within Canchungo. Upon arriving, the students are greeted by both Cirilo, the head welding teacher, and Amona, a second welding teacher. Amona leads the students in a brief devotional first thing each morning sharing a verse or passage from the Bible and reflecting on how the verse is relevant in their lives. On the weekends, Amona is a pastor at a small church in a nearby village, Djita. Today, the students are focused on Proverbs 1:4.    

8:20 AM

  Test time!

Test time!

After the devotional, the students begin their welding theory lesson for the day. Welding theory covers different types of welding; different types of welds; equipment names, parts, and how to use them; as well as basic welding safety.

Surprise! Today there is a pop quiz! But the students don’t even flinch as they feel well prepared from the previous theory lessons to ace the test.

9:30 AM

  Putting the finishing welds on a large metal gate.

Putting the finishing welds on a large metal gate.

After getting some welding theory under their belts, the students are ready for some hands-on practice.  Students gain experience both through specific projects geared to help them practice a certain skill they have learned and also through real-life production projects that people in the community bring to the welding production department throughout the week. Today, the students are working on completing a large metal sliding gate for the entrance of a neighboring nonprofit organization.  

11:30 AM

  Jason showing the students a new machine.

Jason showing the students a new machine.

Once a week, students get a lesson from Jason, the WAVS welding program mentor. Jason gives them lessons and exposure to some machines, tools, and techniques that are less common in Guinea-Bissau, such as the plasma cutting table, tube bender, or how cast iron welding is done. While many of these practices may not be common in other welding workshops throughout Guinea-Bissau, the students are exposed to the types of equipment and techniques that are available.  

1:00 PM

  Welding students installing a fence at a home in Canchungo.

Welding students installing a fence at a home in Canchungo.

Most of the welding takes place at the school. But for several of the larger jobs, there is some onsite installation involved. Here the students are installing a fence around the compound of a community member’s home.

3:00 PM

  Welding a community member's wheelbarrow.

Welding a community member's wheelbarrow.

After a long day of welding theory and practice, the students are ready to head home, but just because the students head home doesn’t mean that the welding production comes to an end. Amona stays at the school and continues to take small jobs from community members until 6 p.m. Many of these smaller jobs include small welds on bicycles, motorcycles, or motors.  

The WAVS welding program is equipping students each day with the skills they need to go out and start a successful welding business of their own. The teachers are not only equipping them with knowledge of welding but they are also imparting life skills as they lead by example. In addition, the production side of the welding program is an important link to the community. Many people first hear about the WAVS School and the various programs it offers through hearing about one of the welding projects the school has done in the community.

We are grateful for the quality teachers that we have in the welding department and are so proud of our students for all the work they are putting into their studies. Keep up the great work!

Between now and the end of June, we invite you to partner with us so we can train even more students in the welding course. There are two ways you can give:

1) Sponsor a teacher

Before the end of June, we are looking for seven people to help sponsor Cirilo, the lead welding teacher, so we can equip more students with life-changing job skills. As a WAVS Teacher Sponsor, you will receive personal updates from Cirilo about how your investment is impacting him and the lives of his students.

2) Give to the WAVS welding program

You can make a one-time gift of any amount before the end of June to help train more welding students. It costs $500 to equip one student with the skills needed to provide for himself and his family for a lifetime.

Meet Cirilo. Teacher by Day, Musician by Night.

By Jenna Harvey, Director of International Development

Cirilo doesn’t sit still. Although class starts at 8 a.m., you will often find him at the WAVS School around 7 a.m., preparing for his work as the school’s lead welding instructor. And the day job isn’t enough. Cirilo is also a musician with a growing fan base.

 Cirilo's album release and concert flier.

Cirilo's album release and concert flier.

Earlier this year, he released his first album, Ña Deus Obrigadu (Thank you, My Lord), and held an album release party at the WAVS School in Canchungo with more than 600 people in attendance from the surrounding towns and villages.  Some in the crowd even came from the capital, Bissau, more than an hour and a half away. Cirilo also performed at the 2017 WAVS school graduation ceremony in January.  

His music and work ethic reflect his desire to impact his students’ lives – both through skills development and spiritual growth.

 Cirilo's album launch and concert celebration at the WAVS school campus.

Cirilo's album launch and concert celebration at the WAVS school campus.

“Our school doesn’t just provide training to improve the lives of students, but it gives life through the proclamation of the Gospel,” Cirilo said.

Cirilo works alongside Amona, a welding assistant teacher at the school, and Jason, the welding program mentor. 

Cirilo started his job in October 2012 when the welding program first began and has helped develop it into the strong program that it is today. He has also helped increase the amount of work that the welding students do for people in the community who pay the school to build doors, windows and security gates. The school earns a small amount of revenue from this work while the students receive the benefit of real-world, hands-on experience. Among hundreds of projects, Cirilo has helped lead the students in the construction of a security gate around a local bank, build a playground at a local primary school and a construct a roof over a water filter factory. 

Before coming to teach at the school, Cirilo studied welding at another vocational school call CIFAP. After graduating in 2006, he worked at a company in Bissau for a few years. He saw the WAVS School while passing it on the road before, but didn’t know much about it.

 Cirilo hard at work, digging a trench for the eletrical line to give the Welding department power.

Cirilo hard at work, digging a trench for the eletrical line to give the Welding department power.

One day, his motorcycle broke down not too far from the school and he stayed the night at a local church. The director of the WAVS school had heard about Cirilo through church and started talking to him about coming to start a welding program at the school. At first, Cirilo didn’t want to leave Bissau to come to the school in Canchungo, but the director kept proposing the idea to him over a period of more than two years. After taking to pray about the possibility seriously, he accepted the job because he wanted to work in a Christian environment and knew that the name of Jesus was being proclaimed in the school.  

Cirilo has also pursued his singing career on the side. He has enjoyed singing since he was little, and he later learned to play guitar in church.  While living in Bissau, Cirilo first performed formally in a vocal group called “Vocalistas di Gloria.” After coming to Canchungo to teach at the WAVS School, because of the distance, he had to leave the group.  But because of his love for singing, performing, and writing music as a tool to demonstrate the love of God, he continued to pursue his musical career.  Cirilo wrote most of the songs on his album himself.  Several of the songs are written in Fula, a tribal language spoken in Guinea-Bissau, so that his music could have a broader reach.

The school is grateful it has dedicated teachers, like Cirilo, who are not only providing life-changing job skills to the community of Canchungo, but who are also Jesus’ hands and feet in the community.

Between now and the end of June, we invite you to partner with us so we can train even more students in the welding course. There are two ways you can give:

1) Sponsor a teacher

Before the end of June, we are looking for seven people to help sponsor Cirilo, the lead welding teacher, so we can equip more students with life-changing job skills. As a WAVS Teacher Sponsor, you will receive personal updates from Cirilo about how your investment is impacting him and the lives of his students.

2) Give to the WAVS welding program

You can make a one-time gift of any amount before the end of June to help train more welding students. It costs $500 to equip one student with the skills needed to provide for himself and his family for a lifetime.

 Cirilo instructing a student

Cirilo instructing a student

WAVS School graduate: "I'm ready. If there's an opportunity, I can go for it."

Crouching under a large cashew tree beside a dirt road, Agusto carefully welded together two square rods of metal. Chickens pecked at the ground around him. Neighbors wandered about. This is his workshop.

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Agusto was able to attend the WAVS School because of Teacher Sponsors who help keep tuition affordable while allowing the school to grow and improve every year.

Between now and the end of June, we invite you to partner with us so we can train even more students in the welding course like Agusto.

Today, you can sponsor a welding teacher or make one-time gift to support students like Agusto. It costs $500 to train one student for a lifetime.


A few years ago, Agusto wasn’t sure how he was going to earn a living in Guinea-Bissau, one of the world’s smallest and poorest countries. Here, the education system is in crumbles and there are few paying jobs. Agusto knew that it doesn’t take much to set up your own business in Guinea-Bissau – just some tools and some job skills. But many young people like himself who are ready and eager to work don’t have the opportunity to get those basic things.

One day, his younger brother told him about the WAVS School and its welding program. He encouraged him to enroll in the nine-month course. Agusto said to himself: “OK, I’m ready. If there’s an opportunity. I can go for it.”

After completing the course and purchasing a set of quality, affordable tools through the school’s New Entrepreneurs Program, Agusto started working.

“All the skills that I’m using now, I got them from the school,” Agusto said. “How to work with the tools, how to work with the machines – all these skills I learned from the school.”

He’s now able to provide for his younger siblings and his mother, all of whom depend on him.

“I’m so proud of myself because now I have my own shop,” Agusto said. “I don’t have to go out there to ask people for money.”

And Agusto says he learned more than just a job skill. He also grew in his faith.

“I will never forget to thank God for giving me the opportunity to study in this school,” he said. “The school has a good program that helped me progress in a technical way and spiritual way, as well.”

Agusto was able to attend the WAVS School because of Teacher Sponsors who help keep tuition affordable while allowing the school to grow and improve every year.

Between now and the end of June, we invite you to partner with us so we can train even more students in the welding course like Agusto. There are two ways you can give:

1) Sponsor a teacher

Before the end of June, we are looking for seven people to help sponsor Cirilo, the lead welding teacher, so we can equip more students with life-changing job skills. As a WAVS Teacher Sponsor, you will receive personal updates from Cirilo about how your investment is impacting him and the lives of his students.

2) Give to the WAVS welding program

You can make a one-time gift of any amount before the end of June to help train more welding students. It costs $500 to equip one student with the skills needed to provide for himself and his family for a lifetime.

More Than a Guard. Meet WAVS school staff: Quidam Sau

By: Jenna Harvey - Director of International Development

You may already be familiar with the faces and the names of the WAVS School’s lead teachers and administrative staff, but today I want to introduce you to a dedicated employee who works behind-the-scenes so that WAVS can carry out its mission: to equip young women and men with life-changing job skills.

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Quidam Sau

Quidam Sau began working at the WAVS School in December 2012 as the head guard. His job is to coordinate with all the other guards at the school, manage the keys to the school, water the plants, keep the grounds clean and orderly, and other minor tasks such as replacing light bulbs and ensuring toilets and sinks are in working order. Above all, his main job is to keep the school a safe atmosphere where students, clients, community members and guests feel welcomed.

Quidam Sau is more than just a guard. He studied both English and computers at the WAVS school. He studied English up to level 3 and graduated from the computer course in April 2015. As a computer course graduate, he also took advantage of the New Entrepreneurs Program that the school offers and purchased a personal laptop.

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Studying computers at the WAVS school.

Quidam Sau is a mason by trade and has helped the school with many masonry projects over the years. Most recently, he laid cement in two of the rooms in the welding department which previously had only dirt floors. He also built conduit boxes to bury the electric line from the main school building across the street to the welding workshop.  

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Quidam Sau giving a Creole lesson to a group of U.S. visitors. 

Quidam Sau is at the school every weekday morning starting at 7 a.m.. He warmly welcomes all who visit with a large smile. Last February, Quidam Sau even gave a group of visitors from the U.S. an introductory lesson in Creole.

It truly takes an entire team to make the WAVS School what it is. We are so thankful for the work and commitment that Quidam Sau contributes to the WAVS team!

A Day of Goodbyes

By Janelle van der Hoek, Associate Director

It is starting to heat up as I walk to the school with the red dirt beneath my feet. I pass the school’s sign for the last time during my stay and walk into the English class. There are 8 students in the class today, faces that were once unfamiliar, now I know by name. Mario, the teacher, shows where I can sit and join the students. As he teaches, I listen. At times he asks us visitors questions so that we can explain words or ideas before breaking up into small groups to work with the students. Each native English speaker is paired up with one or two students. We work through several exercises. I am amazed at what they are learning just three or four weeks into their class.

Our final day in English Class

The class is drawing to a close and I go to the front to explain I had a little something as a gift for the students, since we’ve been working with them for the last two weeks. A small treat that we just learned the meaning earlier that week. A “sweet candy” – a lollipop from See’s Candies. Something that we would view as so small, yet they were completely thrilled about. I was able to then use this to help them also learn English as they read out loud which flavor they received. In giving it to them, I thanked them for letting us sit in the class and that I was sad to go. In saying this, I could tell within myself that I was not wanting to leave quite yet. We speak all together for the last five minutes or so, we take pictures together and say our goodbyes – something very important in the Guinean culture. We all linger, each visitor talking with the students they grew close to during the last two weeks.

Relationships are very important in the Guinean culture. People there value each other, enjoy spending time together and make saying goodbye intentional. Today will be full of goodbyes. And although in the past goodbyes haven’t been super difficult for me, today was different. There is a staff lunch where all the staff from the WAVS school and the visitors eat together. It is such a fun time with everyone. As some staff leave to teach their classes that afternoon or go home, some of the staff that we connected with stay behind and we chat as long as possible. We stay until an English conversation class takes place in the afternoon and then start for our bungalow.

Sunday lunch with Quidam Sau and Ema

As I begin packing in my bungalow, I look back at my time here in Canchungo: the people I met; the experiences I’ve had. Looking back on our time there, one afternoon stands out to me. I spent an afternoon with two other people from our group in Fresno, one of the staff, Quidam Sau, and his wife, Ema, who has attended the WAVS school. After church, we walked all together to their home. Although they knew some English, we still did struggle. We were able to look around and ask questions about pictures or hangings on their walls. We showed them pictures of our families. We ate lunch together, sitting in a circle and eating from the same dish while we continued to talk. Once dinner was finished we went outside under the mango tree and chatted some more. We knew approximately the time frame they were given and our time was almost up. We didn’t want to overstay our welcome and as we mentioned we better leave, Ema, who barely spoke English but could understand quite a bit spoke with her husband. Quidam Sau explained that it would be nice for us to stay a few more minutes. We laughed. We spoke. It was wonderful. Throughout the rest of our time, whenever we passed by their house which was on a main street in town, we would say hello as we were passing and sometimes Ema would see us, jump up and make sure we could see her.

The bungalow I was staying in

I continue to pack my suitcase and reflect that it’s my last evening in Canchungo and I’ve said all my goodbyes. I hear Jenna, my co-worker who lives here, come up and I started joking around with her. As I open the door I see that Jenna and Ema are both here. Ema surprised me and another member of our group; she wanted to say goodbye again. So we speak to each other, with Jenna acting as translator, and say tender goodbyes.

Mario, the WAVS school English teacher, and I excited for the new books. With the visiting teams, we were able to bring English books for upcoming students.

I’m so very thankful for this opportunity to have gone to Guinea-Bissau and experience what WAVS is doing first-hand and the impact the school is having in the daily lives of the people there. The school is known in the community and is seen in a positive light. The teachers love what they are doing and care about their students. The students can also tell how much their teachers care about them and want them to understand what they are learning. And the staff are passionate about wanting people to know about Jesus. I’m grateful for this opportunity to be on the WAVS team.

Do you want to learn more about what WAVS is doing? Do you want to help sponsor a teacher at the WAVS school? Find out more at: www.wavschools.org or email me at janelle@wavschools.org.

Welding - A Heartfelt Desire

By: Brian Granse

I was called by God to join the team that went to Guinea Bissau in February 2017. This trip was my very first time overseas. God placed the WAVS School, out of the other exposure trip opportunities, as a special interest to me. I suppose part of that reason is that it’s a vocational school that offers welding as one of its main courses. 

Doing some welding in the WAVS Shop 

Welding was my heartfelt desire that I first became aware of in high school, and now I have been working in manufacturing for 22 years as a welder. With that said, and having my manufacturing skills/experience, I was really impressed with the equipment resources that are present in the welding and machine shop at the WAVS school. I really wasn’t expecting to see that type of equipment available for the students to learn from! While I toured the welding department I remember saying a few times that I don’t even have such a nice mig welder of my own, and that you can’t even find what they have at Home Depot (and Home Depot has some nice machines). The machine shop in the welding department was truly outfitted to be able to manufacture anything from steel that could possibly be needed, whether it’s of thin or thick steel! Again the available equipment is beyond what I had expected. Any student that has the opportunity to attend this school is blessed. It was also comforting to witness safety being used, for instance PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) from the instructors and students. Things like safety glasses, gloves and earplugs were all in use!

Helping to install some security gates with the welding students

The staff of the school was another standout for me. I did attend a few of the English classes where I learned how well Mario (a native to that area and a WAVS teacher) spoke.  He was very fluent in English.  No joke, even I could learn some things about English in his classroom (Don’t tell anyone, but I felt exposed. haha!)

Drawing near to our departure from Africa we got to tour Bissau.  It was really cool to see the land where the new WAVS campus will be.  It’s about 40 miles from the current WAVS school.  Before visiting the land, we had the chance to meet and be shown around a private university that is about a mile away from the new school site. It was a very friendly interaction from the university’s director and he even went with us to the new WAVS school site. These two schools will compliment each other with the courses available.

All in all, during the two weeks of exposure from landing in Dakar to leaving Africa our team was very well taken care of by a strong team that is composed of from the WAVS staff, and other missionaries.  They are just super great people.

I will be a contributor to the workings and financial support of this school over the long run.

I am looking forward to another trip.

English Conversation Club

Hurry Up & Wait

By Riley Endicott - Communications Director & Missions Pastor at Northwest Church

Hurry up and wait. If you have been around the world of video production and film-making for any amount of time, it’s a phrase that you will likely hear over and over. Ironically, it’s also a phrase that probably describes a lot of exposure trips and short-term mission trips. Hurry up and get to the next place, task, or meeting, wait for it to start, then repeat. It’s a phrase, that for better or worse, I had embraced as a motto, until recently.

Riley surrounded by children in the community of Canchungo, where the WAVS school is located, as he is about to fly a drone.

I had the opportunity to visit Guinea-Bissau this February to produce some video content for West African Vocational Schools on an exposure trip with my church, Northwest, and The Well Community Church. Having worked in video production for the last five years I have had the opportunity to do a lot of travel and my experience in Guinea-Bissau is definitely at the top of my list. Not because the country was beautiful, the people welcoming, and school’s program high quality (which is all very true!), but because of what the people I met there taught me about my idea of time. They taught me that my concept of hurrying up in order to wait is not always the most fruitful.

The conversation that sticks out in my mind the most was with Lili, the school’s Vice Director. He explained to me that time is a limitless resource. No matter what we do, there will always be 24 hours in the day. And because it’s a limitless resource, we should first use it on what matters most: people and relationships. He explained this to me as I was in the middle of setting up my tripod for the next interview I was about to do. I was trying to be efficient with my time. I was talking with him while working on my next task, but in reality I was actually only giving him about half the attention he deserved.

Interviewing Lili, the WAVS school Vice Director

Equipping and empowering a community is a hard thing to do. It requires a lot of courage and imagination and it also requires the ability to listen and invest in long lasting relationships. All of these things require time and patience. In the United States, success is measured by how efficient one can be with their time. How many tasks and appointments can be completed within a work day. More productivity means more profit. Time is money and money, as we know, is a limited resource. Equipping and empowering our communities aren’t something that really come from being efficient and it rarely comes from financial resources alone. But these paradigms don’t always exist in a country like Guinea-Bissau. With a team full of people who are courageous, imaginative, patient and willing to truly invest their time in others, it makes sense that WAVS exists there and is helping to empower and equip its community.

When time is a limitless resource to be used to invest in people the possibilities are endless. I’m grateful for Lili and the people at WAVS who taught me this. I’m excited to see what the future holds for Guinea-Bissau and how WAVS will leave its mark on the country. I’m also hopeful that a little bit of Guinea-Bissau will have rubbed off on me so that I can slow down and invest rather than always hurrying up and waiting.

Making a Difference

By Jeff Kollenkark

The WAVS School Director, Lili, and me on my last day in Canchungo

I was given the opportunity to join a small group visiting the WAVS School in Guinea-Bissau for 2 weeks in February.  This was something special that I could not pass up as I was familiar with the work of this Christian outreach through encounters at Rotary, The Well Community Church and at their fundraiser banquet last October.  I wanted to experience the school and people first hand. The school is transforming a struggling nation one person at a time through education and vocational training in areas such as computer basics, welding, auto mechanics, sewing, English, and French.  They are also partnering with other organizations in the country by training teams that can instill healthier living through repairing abandoned water pumps and installing simple latrines.   

Guinea-Bissau was unlike anything I have ever experienced.  The days were full of new sights, new smells, new foods, new people, and a new language.  All my senses were firing at once.  I don’t think that I can explain the impact or experience in words.  The country has great needs with high poverty and a fairly broken infrastructure as seen by the lack of good roads, sporadic electrical grid, compromised water sources, inferior healthcare, and limited opportunities to progress forward.  

Above: in a local market with a fellow visitor

Below: learning basic Creole with the rest of my team in our first days in Guinea Bissau

The school is a beacon of light there providing several means to better oneself and the remote community of Canchungo.  The teachers love their job and their students and believe that they can make a difference over time in peoples’ lives both spiritually and physically by providing knowledge and skills that last a lifetime.  I was greatly encouraged and honored to be able to participate in the English and conversation classes.  

Steps are being taken now to establish a new campus just outside of the capital city, Bissau, on roughly 20 acres.  This will have the ability to impact around 1,200 people a year and add new disciplines like agriculture.  The country has a huge potential to grow more of their own food and increase exports through introducing new methods and export standards. I loved talking to the students and listening to their dreams to be a doctor, lawyer, pro soccer player, teacher, farmer and so on.  They see Americans as caring and loving people and would love to come to school here, the best country in the world.  The prospect of coming to the US is not good with the difficulty of getting a Visa to come here from Guinea-Bissau.

Above: With the students from the Beginner English class we participated in.

Below: Building relationships with Quidam Sau, one of the staff at the WAVS School, and his family.

Life is much more difficult for the people of Guinea-Bissau, but they are generally happy people that love others and love to socialize.  Their dreams and aspirations are much the same as ours. Their pace of life is slower and relationships are very important.  I like that part very much.  Upon returning to Fresno, I am thankful for our freedoms, our abundance of fresh safe food and water, reliable transportation, and the comforts of heating and air conditioning.  Believe it or not, our roads and drivers are much better here at home.

How the WAVS School is giving communities access to water

By Jenna Harvey, Director of International Development

Water. We use it every day in a variety of forms: drinking, showering, washing hands, brushing teeth, washing dishes, washing clothes, flushing the toilet, watering plants, cooking, etc. For most of us, all we have to do is turn on the faucet, and we have a seemingly endless supply of clean water. However, for the majority of people in Guinea-Bissau, securing water for any of those tasks is a chore. Before any of those things can be done, they must go to the nearest well, draw their buckets full of water and then carry the heavy buckets back home. Depending on where the nearest working well is, this could be quite a long walk.

A successful repair of a community pump at a local school.

For the third year in a row, WAVS partnered with a Christian organization called WellFound to train students how to repair water pumps and build latrines. The training was held at the WAVS School in December and lasted three weeks. Eight students from the villages surrounding Bula, a town 45 minutes from the WAVS School, attended the training. The mechanics instructor at the WAVS School facilitated the training on building latrines. The top water-pump technician in Guinea-Bissau came from Bissau to teach the water-pump portion of the training.

Students taking apart a pump to diagnose the problem.

Not only did the students get classroom instruction, but they also went out into the surrounding communities and got some hands-on practice, as well. The students were able to fix pumps in high-use areas such as a school, a hospital, and a local mosque. In total, the students repaired nine pumps, which was more than double what they were able to repair last year.

This pump was a bit different than all the other pumps in the area. Here is the professor taking a moment to conduct some on-the-job training.

At the graduation ceremony in late December, the teachers praised the students on the new skills that they had learned, which will allow them to help their communities have consistent access to water. WellFound thanked WAVS for the opportunity to partner together to offer life-changing job skills to the local population. The students were also surprised with news that WellFound had already secured them jobs in their villages so the skills they had learned could be immediately put into action.

Wellfound Graduates

WAVS is excited that because of its partnership with WellFound, entire communities now have closer access to water!

How one young student learned more than just English in Mario’s class

By Chris Collins, Executive Director

When Mario Djedjo, the WAVS School’s English instructor, first got to know his 14-year-old neighbor, Victor, he invited him to enroll in the WAVS School so he could learn English.

Even though few people in Guinea-Bissau speak English, Mario knows that the language can open up new opportunities for young people and connect them with the rest of the world.

“So I asked Victor, ‘Why not study English?’” Mario said.

Victor was eager to learn, but his father wouldn’t let him.

“So I went to speak with his father and he said that the problem was money,” Mario said. “He couldn’t pay for private high school and pay for the WAVS School’s English class at the same time. So I told him that the course is not expensive – just 5,000 cefa (about $8.50) per month.”

Victor’s father was surprised to find out he could afford English classes for his son and he immediately signed him up.Two years later, Victor has worked his way through four levels of English and is now in his 5th and final level. He’s one of Mario’s favorite students.

But the story doesn’t end there.

“What really moved me in my heart was that four months ago, I started a Bible study in my house,” Mario said. “Victor was one of the first that I invited. At first he didn’t come, but after a while he started to attend. Now he never misses a day. This is the beginning of something for him to learn about Jesus. Once I asked him if he wanted to become Jesus’ friend and he ‘Yes, of course.’”

Join us in thanking Mario for having such a huge impact on the lives of young people in his community!