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.”