How vocational training helped this welder grow his business in West Africa

Ciro (right) and his former apprentice, Nilton (left), smile as they show off their welding workshop in West Africa. Ciro attended the WAVS Vocational School so he could grow his business and provide for four orphaned children.

Ciro (right) and his former apprentice, Nilton (left), smile as they show off their welding workshop in West Africa. Ciro attended the WAVS Vocational School so he could grow his business and provide for four orphaned children.

For years, Ciro Gomes earned a meager living as an auto body repairman — patching up old cars so they could keep chugging along the streets of West Africa. He had never received formal training as a welder, so he mostly just figured things out through on-the-job experience.

Eventually, his clients started asking him to take on other welding jobs, such as building metal doors, windows, and security bars. The new work would mean more income, which he desperately needed. Ever since his sister had passed away a few years ago, Ciro had been responsible for her four orphaned children.


“If I didn’t have this job, I wouldn’t have any other way to earn an income.”


Ciro had never received any formal training as a welder. After studying at the WAVS Vocational School, he was able to grow his business by taking on more types of welding jobs.

Ciro had never received any formal training as a welder. After studying at the WAVS Vocational School, he was able to grow his business by taking on more types of welding jobs.

But these new jobs required technical skills he didn’t have. Ciro realized he was in over his head and needed help.

Ciro had heard about the WAVS Vocational School’s welding program and knew it had a good reputation. Maybe that’s what I need, he thought.

“The work that the school is doing is more advanced, more technical,” Ciro said. “If you can do that kind of work, you’re going to be able to gain a better income.”

Ciro enrolled in the course, using the money he earned from his work on cars to pay tuition. (Thanks to WAVS donors who subsidize the cost of the WAVS School, tuition is affordable for young West Africans like Ciro.)

Ciro (right) and Nilton (left) work on welding together a door for a client. Both West Africans studied at the WAVS Vocational School to expand their skill sets so they could take on more types of welding jobs.

Ciro (right) and Nilton (left) work on welding together a door for a client. Both West Africans studied at the WAVS Vocational School to expand their skill sets so they could take on more types of welding jobs.

Today, Ciro’s putting his new skills to use.

“The way that I learned to weld [when I was young] is very different than how they teach it at the school,” Ciro said. “Before, I was never able to calculate measurements for a job. But now I can look at a job and quickly come up with a plan.”

The training helped Ciro so much that he encouraged one of his apprentices, Nilton Gomes, to enroll in the welding program, as well. After Nilton completed the course, he was selected by the school to stay on for a one-year internship in the welding department.

Nilton graduated from the WAVS Vocational School’s welding program and was later selected for a one-year internship at the school. He’s now back at his workshop, using the new skills he learned.

Nilton graduated from the WAVS Vocational School’s welding program and was later selected for a one-year internship at the school. He’s now back at his workshop, using the new skills he learned.

“At the graduation ceremony, everyone was excited for us – the staff, the teachers, even my boss,” Nilton said. “They were so excited with the work that we had done.”

Nilton, who’s now back working with Ciro at his shop, is sharing his new knowledge and skills with apprentices at the shop. (Read more of Nilton’s story here.)

Today, Ciro’s shop takes on many types of welding projects. He’s come a long way from just doing auto-body work.

“As you can see, we’re doing OK now,” Ciro said. “We’re earning enough to get by. If I didn’t have this job, I wouldn’t have any other way to earn an income.”

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

Welder working on a door

To escape poverty, this West African trained at a vocational school to become a welder

Sergio, center, welds together a piece of metal at a the local welding shop where he works. A few years ago, Sergio was unemployed and only made a few dollars here and there from working odd jobs. Determined to escape a life of poverty, he enrolled in the WAVS Vocational School’s welding program.

Sergio, center, welds together a piece of metal at a the local welding shop where he works. A few years ago, Sergio was unemployed and only made a few dollars here and there from working odd jobs. Determined to escape a life of poverty, he enrolled in the WAVS Vocational School’s welding program.

How do you help a young man like Sergio, who grew up in one of the world’s poorest countries?

Handouts like free food and clothing are quick and easy ways to give to the poor. But they also create dependency and aren’t long-term solutions.

Sergio needed more than a quick fix. His only source of income was the few dollars he made here and there by helping out his neighbor, a mason, with occasional jobs. At this rate, he would never be able to escape a life of poverty.

Sergio, standing at the far left, with his classmates at the WAVS Vocational School in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa.

Sergio, standing at the far left, with his classmates at the WAVS Vocational School in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa.

Then Sergio heard about the WAVS Vocational School. With the little money he had saved up, he enrolled in the school’s welding course. (Thanks to WAVS donors who subsidize the cost of the WAVS School’s training programs, tuition is affordable for young West Africans like Sergio.)

“Welding was a job skill that I saw I could grow in,” Sergio said. “My country is developing and there are opportunities for skilled welders.”

After graduating from the course, the school selected Sergio to stay on for a one-year internship in the welding department. Following the internship, a local welding shop hired him. Today, Sergio’s life is much different.

“Before, it was difficult to earn money,” he said. “But when you have a professional skill, it’s easier to earn an income because you’re able to depend on yourself.”

Today, Sergio earns a steady income working at a local welding shop.

Today, Sergio earns a steady income working at a local welding shop.

Before enrolling in the WAVS School, Sergio had never touched a welder. But during the nine-month course, Sergio learned the basics of welding theory and gained lots of hands-on experience. Later, through his internship, he learned how to invoice customers and take on custom jobs by working on projects for the school’s clients.

The school’s welding department takes on projects from clients in the community for two reasons: To give its students real-world, practical experience; and to generate revenue for the school so that it doesn’t need to rely on outside funding as much.

“Before I went to the school, I couldn’t quote a job, but now I can,” Sergio said. “Now, when someone brings me a job, I can look at it and say this is the price you’re going to have to pay. Before, I wasn’t able to do that.”

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As much as Sergio has worked hard to get to where he is today, he still gives God the credit for his success.

“What I learned at the school is that, as humans, we are nothing,” Sergio said. “It’s only what God allows us to do that we’re able to accomplish anything. It’s because God has given me the ability to weld that I’m able to do what I’m doing today.”

A vocational school graduate shows that overcoming poverty is complicated, but not impossible

WAVS Welding graduate Erickson Sanhá smiles as he shows off some of the 70 school desks that he and his fellow graduates were hired to build for a local school.

WAVS Welding graduate Erickson Sanhá smiles as he shows off some of the 70 school desks that he and his fellow graduates were hired to build for a local school.

After graduating from the WAVS Vocational School’s welding program, Erickson Sanhá was ready to set up his own shop.

But without start-up capital, how would he buy tools and supplies? And without a power grid in town, where would he get electricity and space to work? And without business experience, how would he know how to invoice his customers?

Overcoming poverty, it turns out, is complicated – but not impossible.

Erickson received a set of welding tools through the WAVS New Entrepreneurs Program after completing a one-year internship in the WAVS Vocational School’s welding department.

Erickson received a set of welding tools through the WAVS New Entrepreneurs Program after completing a one-year internship in the WAVS Vocational School’s welding department.

WAVS donors gave Erickson that opportunity. After completing the nine-month welding course, Erickson went on to work as an unpaid intern at the school. In return, the school rewarded him with a set of welding tools last year – just what he needed to strike out on his own.

Today, Erickson and two of his fellow graduates are growing their small welding business. Recently, they built 70 desks for a local school run by a church in town, which also provided them with a generator and workspace. They’re also finishing up a set of custom-made security bars for a client’s home – a job that will earn them about $200.

Erickson displays the security bars that he’s building for a client’s home.

Erickson displays the security bars that he’s building for a client’s home.

Erickson puts a lot of emphasis on quality.

“The most important thing is patience,” he said while showing off some of his work on a recent afternoon. “If you try to build something rapidly and throw it together, you’re going to ruin it. You need to have patience. That’s one thing they taught us at the WAVS School: patience. And how to put things together the right way.”

Erickson and his fellow graduates finish painting one of the 70 desks a local school hired them to build.

Erickson and his fellow graduates finish painting one of the 70 desks a local school hired them to build.

During his yearlong internship in the WAVS welding department, Erickson spent a lot of time working on projects for the school’s clients. The welding department takes on these projects for two reasons: To give students real-world, hands-on experience; and to generate revenue for the school so that it doesn’t need to rely on outside funding as much. Through his internship experience, Erickson learned how to invoice customers, track materials, and take on custom jobs. Those practical skills, along with the set of tools he received through the WAVS New Entrepreneurs Program, set him up for success.

“After my internship, which gave me even more experience in this type of work, I wasn’t afraid to take on any job,” Erickson said.

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For this future leader in Guinea-Bissau, life is 'Fantastic!'

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Poverty. Corruption. Government dysfunction. The woes of West Africa add up.

But when you meet Vasco Iala, suddenly the future doesn’t seem so bleak. Ask Vasco how he’s doing and he’ll give you the same answer every time:

“Fantastic!”

Vasco, 25, graduated from the WAVS School’s computer course in 2011. He went on to enroll in a six-year medical school program in Guinea-Bissau’s capital, Bissau. After he graduates this June, Vasco plans to work as a pediatrician in his country, where nearly 1 out of 10 children die before their fifth birthday.

Between med school classes, studying for exams, and serving as the vice president of his church’s youth association, Vasco also teaches computer classes at a private high school — a job he got with the help of his certificate from the WAVS computer course. He earns about $1.40 for every 45-minute class. It’s just enough to cover his daily living expenses.

Vasco lectures at a private high school in Bissau. His teacher’s salary helps him cover expenses while he finishes up med school.

Vasco lectures at a private high school in Bissau. His teacher’s salary helps him cover expenses while he finishes up med school.

“The WAVS School helped me a lot,” Vasco said. “I have a lot of expenses, but this job has given me the funds I need.”

While at the WAVS School, Vasco learned how to use Microsoft Office programs and how to access the Internet. After he enrolled in med school, he discovered that many of his classmates didn’t know how to use a computer – a basic skill necessary to complete med school. He became their unofficial computer instructor.

Vasco, center, while he was a computer student at the WAVS School. This photo was taken in April 2011.

Vasco, center, while he was a computer student at the WAVS School. This photo was taken in April 2011.

A few years after starting med school, Vasco began his job teaching computer classes at Escola Brandão, a private high school in Bissau. In Guinea-Bissau, where public schools often shut down for months at a time because the government fails to pay its teachers, private schools have become increasingly popular. Tuition is minimal. At Escola Brandão, a tiny campus with cramped classrooms tucked into a crowded neighborhood in Bissau, students pay about $15 per month. The school receives no outside funding, so its teachers’ salaries are similarly small.

The private school in Bissau where Vasco teaches.

The private school in Bissau where Vasco teaches.

Still, what the school lacks in funding and basic supplies, it makes up for with energy and enthusiasm. At one of Vasco’s classes on a recent afternoon, Vasco animatedly explained the different uses of Microsoft Office programs to a dozen 11th graders. He illustrated his points using a projector that shined onto a bedsheet hanging on the wall.

“Vasco is a great teacher,” the school administrator told me. “He can figure out anything with computers.”

Guinea-Bissau desperately needs a new generation of hard-working, educated leaders. If the country is to change anytime soon, it will be because of people like Vasco and the donors who gave him the opportunity to succeed.

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

Vasco’s students eagerly crowded together for a group photo after class.

Vasco’s students eagerly crowded together for a group photo after class.

We’ve got the Travel Bug. His name is Gus.

Gus the Travel Bug WAVS School Mascot

Editor’s Note: Meet Gus. He’s a big, red, fuzzy, stuffed bug with his own Instagram following. For the last few years, he’s worked at the WAVS office in Fresno. Why do we keep him around? Probably because he always has a smile on his face.

Earlier this year, we decided that it was time for him to make his first trip to Guinea-Bissau. We told him his only job was to write a blog post. Here it is …


Posted April 1, 2019

IT’S NOT EASY BEING A STUFFED BUG — ESPECIALLY WHEN VISITING WEST AFRICA.

Ever since the WAVS staff found me abandoned at a fundraiser a few years ago and adopted me as the WAVS mascot, I’ve waited patiently for my chance to visit Guinea-Bissau. This January, my co-workers finally invited me to come with them!

We’re off to West Africa!

We’re off to West Africa!

The good news is that I arrived back in one piece – but the trip left me scarred. More on that later …

As soon as I arrived at the WAVS School, I ran into some challenges.

For one thing, I’m really, really short. About eight inches tall, to be exact. So when the welding instructors were demonstrating to their students how to bend and cut metal, I couldn’t see past the crowd of students. Thankfully, one of the students propped me up on a table so I could get an up-front view of the welding lesson taking place. Before I knew it, I was the center of attention.

Definitely posting this pic on my Instagram.

Keep those sharp tools away, please. My fluffy skin tears easily!

Keep those sharp tools away, please. My fluffy skin tears easily!

Another problem with being a stuffed bug is that I’m basically one giant head – with little stubs for hands. So the welding students wouldn’t even let me hold a stick welder. They said I couldn’t grip it right and that their safety gloves were too large for me. I’m glad I got to watch them practice their welding skills, at least. I was impressed with how much they could do with just a stick welder and some simple tools!

The students showed me some tiny stools that they made to sell to people in the community. The proceeds from the sales go back to the school, which helps cover expenses so the school doesn’t have to rely on outside funding as much. The stools were the perfect size for a bug like me! Selfie time!

The students also take on many other projects for the community. They even made playground equipment for a local primary school, which I tested out myself. I was too excited to whirl around on the merry-go-round to pay much attention to anything else. At 1lb 8 ounces, I’m just glad I didn’t go flying off!

Gus the WAVS mascot on a merry-go-round that the welding students made.

The next morning, we visited the rest of the school. I buzzed in and out of the classrooms, admiring the brightly colored walls and greeting everyone I met with my trademark smile (people say the only time they’ve seen me frown was when I was left upside down in a storage bin for a few months! 🙃).

Gus visiting the computer class at West African Vocational Schools.

I became quickly convinced that we have the best teachers in the whole country! Did you know that Cirilo, the welding instructor, is also a musician? He’s already released his first album. You can bet I jammed out to his tunes the whole trip.

My new friend, the WAVS English teacher, Moise.

My new friend, the WAVS English teacher, Moise.

The English teacher, Moise, is great at encouraging his students to remember the vocabulary they’re learning in class. “Use it or lose it!” he tells them at least ten times each class. “Use it! Write it down!”

Marfam, the French teacher, speaks five languages. That’s five more than me!

I was so inspired by Marfam’s knowledge of languages that I decided to try to learn a little bit of the local Creole, a Portuguese-based language unique to Guinea-Bissau.

Mattheus, one of the school’s guards, led a Creole lesson one morning. It was hard for a little bug like me to remember all the words, but Mattheus was a patient teacher. Some of the phrases, like kuma ku bu sta? (how are you?) and obrigado (thank you) were useful when I talked with the students. I tried really hard to remember those phrases – but when your brain is 99% synthetic cotton, it’s not easy!

That afternoon, we met up with Dauda, the computer basics instructor. He invited us to sit on plastic chairs behind his house and drink warga.

Dauda is the warga master!

Dauda is the warga master!

Have you ever heard of warga? It’s a kind of sweet green tea that people drink in the afternoon while they socialize. Dauda taught me how to make it. The tea is mixed with a lot of sugar and then poured back and forth between two small glasses, a process which caramelizes the sugar and creates a frothy layer on top. The same tea leaves are used to make three rounds of tea, with sugar added each time. I think I liked the last round best because the tea was not quite as strong, but still sweet!

***

Parabens! … That’s how you say “congratulations” in Portuguese and Creole. I got lots of practice with that phrase at the WAVS School graduation ceremony we attended on the first weekend of February.

I sang and danced along as Cirilo brought the crowd to their feet with his Creole worship music. I cheered for every one of our 23 graduates!

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***

About halfway through my trip, I suddenly started feeling a little light-headed. Something wasn’t right. Was it just me, or was I losing my stuffing? Thankfully, my co-worker, Rebecca, took a look. Sure enough, I had a three-inch tear on the back of my head! Not sure how it happened, but I’m just glad the injury was spotted in time.

Gus with a monkey

Despite the gaping wound, I stayed positive and kept smiling at everyone I met. My teammates made sure the tear didn’t get any worse. Finally, after arriving back in the states, Rebecca stitched me back up. Now I’m as good as new and already counting down the days until my next trip!

In the meantime, I’ll keep posting pics of my trip on Instagram. You can follow me here. And see you all at the next WAVS fundraiser!

P.S. Here are some more photos from my trip!

WAVS graduate: 'God has given me the power to be a welder'

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For seven years, Nilton Gomes worked as an apprentice at a small welding shop. But he was mostly given odd-jobs and didn't receive much real training. At this rate, Nilton knew he would never be ready to start his own shop.

So in October 2016, he enrolled in the WAVS School’s welding program. Nilton quickly discovered that he had been missing out on a lot.

“With the things that I’m learning at the school, I can suggest better ideas than what we did in the past at the shop,” he said. “We have made gates and window security gates. I’ve used skills that I learned at the school to help improve the quality and design of our work.”

Nilton’s teachers recognized his skill, strong work ethic, and positive attitude. After completing the nine-month welding course, they invited Nilton to stay on for a second year as one of the program’s three welding interns.

Nilton working on a truss for    a roof the welding students built   .

Nilton working on a truss for a roof the welding students built.

The welding department had recently started the internship program to help keep up with the growing demand for its services. There were more project requests coming in from clients in the community than the department could handle with just its students and teachers. The interns not only gain valuable work experience, but they also generate revenue for the school so that it doesn’t have to completely rely on outside funding.

In June, Nilton completed his internship and has received a starter kit of welding tools through the WAVS New Entrepreneurs Program.

Nilton plans to open his own welding shop in the future. His older brother, who had encouraged him to study at the school, is helping him find a generator so he can make his dreams a reality.

“I don’t just want to do my work quickly,” Nilton said. “I want to do my work with love. God has given me the power to be a welder.”

Left to Right: Erikson, Nilton & Sergio receiving their starter kits through the WAVS New Entrepreneurs Program.

Left to Right: Erikson, Nilton & Sergio receiving their starter kits through the WAVS New Entrepreneurs Program.


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This holiday season, we invite you to Spark Opportunity for a future welding entrepreneur. Your gift today will help train 20 young people, like Nilton, in the next school year with the skills they need to provide for themselves and their families — for the rest of their lives. Qualifying graduates will also receive welding starter kits through the WAVS New Entrepreneurs Program.

WAVS has partnered with the nonprofit One Day's Wages to raise $30,000 before the end of the year to train new welding students. One Day’s Wages will match every donation made through December 31 — dollar for dollar — up to $15,000!

They are ready. Give them the opportunity.

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.
 

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"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.

Bruno Auto Mechanics Shot

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.

CONTINUE READING BELOW ...


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!