By Emily Hentschke, March 2016 WAVS Associate Director
Each staff member walked in to the WAVS classroom on a humid Friday afternoon with a smile. They all graciously came up to shake the hands of the board members and myself then began laughing and joking with each other as they waited for the all-staff meeting to begin. Earlier in the week Mario, the Language Department Head told us “We are happy. We have a bright team and a very strong one.” As the meeting went on, the camaraderie, passion, and genuine love that I observed further validated Mario’s statement and confirmed to me that the WAVS staff are more than just coworkers, but they are a family who care deeply about each other and their mission at the school.
There are 19 staff members at the school, and from the guards, to the teachers, to the administration, it is very clear that everyone is equally committed to serving the students and each other. For example, the WAVS School staff have all agreed to set aside part of their paychecks every month to keep a care fund for each other. Whenever someone is experiencing a hardship like a family illness, or an exciting life transition such as having a new child, the staff pool together their set aside funds to support that person. At this meeting, they were celebrating and reminding everyone to pool their funds for one of the guard’s upcoming wedding. Mario told us “The best part about the job is the team,” and with support and love like that, I can absolutely see why.
Of the two weeks I spent in Guinea-Bissau, the hour spent with the whole staff was one of my favorites. It was so powerful to experience the familial community that has been built at the WAVS school knowing how great of an impact this bond has on the success of the school and on the staff. Cierlo, the Welding Department Head shared “I see that the school contributes to change in people’s lives, especially for the staff.” Right now many of the public school teachers in Guinea-Bissau are on strike for more fair treatment and consistent wages, so being able to work for an organization that is not only doing so much good for the community, but is also creating its own community of staff who are happy and well-supported is a true blessing and a rarity in this country. After a meeting of hearing about and witnessing how being part of the WAVS School has changed the lives of the staff, I walked out of the WAVS classroom on that humid Friday afternoon with a big smile.