Her first time in Africa: Sarah shares her story of visiting Guinea-Bissau

Note: The following was written by Sarah Roche, who visited Guinea-Bissau for four days in May 2012. It was her first time in Africa.

As we rode down the tree-lined bumpy road entering Canchungo, my heart skipped a beat as I knew I was in for a real life adventure.

I was travelling with my cousin, Dan Byrne, who had not only competed in, but placed and completed the Great African Road Rally in January from Budapest, Hungary to Guinea-Bissau. Dan and three other teammates had pushed themselves beyond all physical and emotional limits with the shared common goal of donating to worthwhile charities focused on education within the Guinea Bissau region.

I was fortunate to return with Dan in May as we toured several missions, all involving children and promoting education. Our host, tour guide, and expert interpreter and overall gentleman was Chris Collins, Executive Director of WAVS. Given the limited time we had, Chris ensured we made the most of our time by filling our days with genuine, unique, and meaningful experiences.

We toured SOS Children’s Village and it was such a healthy, organized, welcoming campus. One of the first things I noticed was how the children were so happy and well-adjusted. It seemed as though there was a daily routine and the children were very engaged, whether it was time for school, recreation, or household chores. Everyone of all ages was not only pitching in, but smiling as they did their work.

When Chris, Dan and I visited a class in session, we were delightfully surprised when the entire class stood and sang in unison in our honor – a heart-warming gesture indeed. As we toured the individual houses, each and every House Mother welcomed us with open arms. They were so proud of the children’s individual accomplishments.

What struck me immediately was that not only was every house unique, but very warm and inviting. The children’s drawings and awards were on display. Clearly this was no institution or orphanage – these were homes filled with unconditional love and guidance.

Cecelia, the school director, was our tour guide. I was drawn to her sincerity, wisdom, and overall unwavering faith and vision for the students. At the conclusion of our visit, we were blessed to meet her daughters, yet another reflection of her commitment to family and education. I may have made a lifelong friend. Thank you Cecilia!

Next we toured WAVS. I was overcome with the students’ eagerness and dedication. It was obvious how much they valued the opportunity to be taking vocational courses. Clearly it was a personal choice, yet these were mature students with specific career goals in sight.

Some students shared with us that they view WAVS as a blessing and their bridge to becoming successful in their own right. One student shared he was already trained as an expert tailor, but that learning IT and English will open up endless opportunities in his near future.

The classrooms were colorful and airy and both the students and teachers were fully engaged. As a visitor, there is a strong sense of a faith-based message, as well, and that was very inspiring.

We were able to visit auto mechanics, sewing, IT, and English classes in session. What I could clearly envision is the overall potential of WAVS as word of it spreads. I want to personally thank Chris, Almamo, Herb and Martha for allowing us to stay in your home. Please seriously consider donating to WAVS via monetary or much-needed supplies.

1 John 3:1 (NIV) How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.