One year later: A thank-you note

Dear friends:

One year ago today – with the help and encouragement of people like you – I left my job at The Fresno Bee and began working full-time for West African Vocational Schools. It was a big career change and, I felt at the time, a big risk. Now, of course, I realize I would have been an idiot if I had decided otherwise.

In the last 365 days, your partnership with WAVS has made it possible for us to make some big changes: We went from being funded primarily by our generous founders, Herb and Martha Reynolds, to having a much more diversified base of partners – including 125 unique donors in 2011; we launched a new web site,, with the help of volunteer web developers; we released a short video that tells the story of the work WAVS is doing in Guinea-Bissau; we connected with more than 50 people and organizations in the U.S. and Guinea-Bissau who are either working with us now or who may partner with us in the future; we had 37 people join the WAVS Team, volunteering their time and talents; and we generated publicity for WAVS with six news stories in local media.

So you’ve done a lot to help WAVS grow. As a result, we’re free to dream big about the future and confidently move forward with some exciting new ideas that will bring hope and opportunity to people in one of the world’s poorest countries. In just a few days, we will host a graduation ceremony in Guinea-Bissau for more than 100 students who will receive certificates in auto mechanics, sewing, computer basics and English. Our students are being equipped with skills that are enabling them to find better jobs and create more sustainable futures for their families.

In 2012, in partnership with Seattle-based nonprofit Give2Grow, we will launch a micro-loan program that will provide people in the town of Canchungo the opportunity to start or expand a business in a country where it’s often impossible to get a loan. We’re also exploring the possibility of starting a business selling small solar-powered lights at affordable prices that will give people a source of a light in a community without electricity.

I have a feeling this next year will be a lot of work – and a lot of fun. I’m amazed at the way that God has provided and directed WAVS this year and am confident he’ll continue to do so. I’m thankful to have you be part of the story.


Chris Collins

P.S. If you would like to make a year-end contribution to help further the mission of WAVS in Guinea-Bissau, visit us online here.