WAVS U.S. Staff
Chris traveled to Guinea-Bissau in February 2008 and saw first-hand how the WAVS School is transforming the community of Canchungo by giving students the job skills they need to provide for their families. In December 2010, he became the first full-time executive director of WAVS and has helped the organization expand its influence and pursue its vision.
Prior to joining WAVS, Chris was a journalist in Fresno, California, for five years and received several national and regional awards for investigative reporting. He spent six weeks covering the war in Iraq in late summer 2007 for McClatchy Newspapers.
Chris was born in Boston, grew up near Seattle and graduated from Whitworth University in Spokane in 2005 with bachelor's degrees in journalism and political studies.
Janelle grew up in Visalia, California, and graduated from Dordt College (Sioux Center, Iowa) in 2006 with a Bachelors of Social Work and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. She graduated from Moody Theological Seminary (Chicago) in 2010 with a Masters of Ministry degree with an emphasis on cross-cultural communications and spiritual formation and discipleship.
Janelle has participated in short-term missionary trips with SEND International. She also has experience in administration, event coordinating, project management and donor management.
Janelle is passionate about global missions and has a heart to help provide others with the necessary knowledge and skills they need to flourish in their lives while at the same time sharing the gospel. Janelle was a WAVS volunteer before joining WAVS as its associate director in September 2016.
Crystal grew up in Palmdale, California and moved to Fresno in 2001 to attend Fresno State. She earned her Bachelors of Science in Business Administration, specializing in marketing, and received a minor in interior design. While at Fresno State, Crystal met the love of her life, Luke, who would become her husband.
Crystal later served as the Event Manager for The Grand 1401, a historic building in downtown Fresno. Crystal next worked as the Marketing Manager at STAR Fine Foods and helped build the company’s social media presence, expand its existing product lines, and manage its media campaigns.
In the meantime, Crystal also volunteered with WAVS to coordinate the décor at its annual dinner banquets in Fresno. In 2017, she joined WAVS as its Director of Marketing and Events. Crystal has always been impressed with how WAVS focuses on gospel-centered and long-term development in Guinea-Bissau and its drive to build relationships with the students and community while empowering them to rise out of poverty through vocational training.
Jenna has experience working in both education and international development. Prior to working for WAVS, Jenna spent several years as an elementary teacher in her home state, Wyoming, and volunteered in 13 different countries across the globe.
Jenna joined WAVS in July 2016 as the Director of International Development. She is passionate about creating equal access to quality education for all and is excited to be part of an organization providing tangible life skills to students in Guinea-Bissau.
Jenna holds a bachelor’s in both elementary education and Bible from the University of Northwestern St. Paul in Minnesota and a master’s in international development and service from Concordia University in Portland. Jenna spends the majority of the year living and working alongside the WAVS School staff in Canchungo, Guinea-Bissau.
Jason and Emily Atkins are WAVS staff serving in Guinea-Bissau along with their three children, Savannah, Nathaniel, and Miriam. The Atkins bring more than 10 years of experience working in Guinea-Bissau and a deep passion for the mission of WAVS.
Jason works closely with WAVS School staff as a program mentor in the school's welding department. Together, Jason and Emily work with WAVS to provide teacher training, program development, and administrative support.
Lili Mané first worked at the WAVS School in the summer of 2012 as an English teacher. In 2015, he completed his degree in management studies at The Management Development Institute (MDI) in The Gambia, in partnership with the Institute of Commercial Management (ICM) in the United Kingdom. Lili Joined the WAVS School as vice director in September 2015 and was later hired as school director in August 2016.
“I like working at the WAVS School because of the great impact that it is having in people’s lives in Canchungo and the surrounding areas,” Lili says.
Before joining WAVS, Lili worked as a self-employed carpenter and was a public-transport driver between Guinea-Bissau and neighboring Senegal. Lili has a passion for languages. He speaks Portuguese, English, Creole, Mandinga, Wolof, and three dialects of Balanta.
“I came from a humble and hardworking Bissau-Guinean family,” Lili says. “I learned a lot from my family and am using those skills and values in my job at WAVS every day.”
Mario learned the value of hard work from his father, a jack-of-all-trades who was a blacksmith, farmer and fisherman in the rural town of Cacheu. By the age of 12, Mario was fishing on his own.
“It was very tough. My father never rested,” Mario said. “He always needed help and I was always there. It was a good experience because now I know how to do many things without feeling tired or discouraged.”
Though his father’s work was rewarding, Mario pursued an education so he could provide a more stable future for his family. He completed the computer and English courses at the WAVS school and began teaching as an assistant English instructor. Now he leads the school’s Language Department.
Mario says he wants to share the message of God’s love to his students while also helping them learn English and French, key languages that will open up new opportunities in an increasingly inter-connected world.
Cirilo loves to build new things - and to teach others to do the same. Often the first one to arrive at the WAVS school in the morning, Cirilo teaches his Welding Department students the importance of hard work and creativity.
“I like teaching new skills and learning new skill in my job,” Cirilo said. “I love to create new products that have a good impact.”
Students in the Welding Course gain real-world experience by designing and building gates, doors, tables and large-scale projects, such as roofs and playground equipment. The skills they learn help them find employment or start their own business.
"I want my students to understand the most important things in life and to become responsible in their work," Cirilo said, "I want to give people knowledge and to share God's love with them."