WAVS graduate

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

Nilton.JPG

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.


spark+opportunity+for+future+entrepreneurs+stacked.jpg

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.

IMG_20180131_105434.jpg

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.

IMG_20180131_105149.jpg

“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.

PANO_20180131_105540.jpg

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.

IMG_20180130_130607.jpg

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.

IMG_20180130_131852.jpg

“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.
 

IMG_20180120_115152.jpg

"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