By Jenna Harvey, Director of International Development
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.