Some really random friends


During a weekend visit to one of the dozens of islands scattered off the coast of Guinea-Bissau last April, I struck up a conversation with one of the only other white persons there. His name was Richard Kagel and it was his first time in Africa. He owned an environmental quality-control lab in Santa Rosa, California, and was following through on a middle-of-the-night decision to visit the Guinea-Bissau, the homeland of his lab manager and longtime friend.  He wasn’t sure why he felt so compelled to see the country for himself – but he knew he wanted to help.

Richard said he wanted to start a non-profit to address some of the challenges in Guinea-Bissau. We promised to keep in touch. A couple months later, I was at Richard’s church telling his congregation about the work WAVS was doing in Guinea-Bissau. Then, in October, Richard was in Fresno attending the WAVS benefit concert with nearly 200 other supporters. Since then, he’s started a non-profit called Friends of Guinea-Bissau. His goal is to produce inexpensive water filters made in Guinea-Bissau.

But that’s not all. Last month, Richard became the newest member of the WAVS Board of Directors. His business background and passion for Guinea-Bissau will be invaluable assets for WAVS.

The other coincidence happened a few weeks ago.

I spotted a tweet from a group of three Seattleites who were participating in an amateur bi-continental race from Budapest to the capital of Guinea-Bissau. They were letting their Twitter followers knew they had arrived in Bissau safely.

I emailed one of the team members, Daniel Byrne, and asked if I could meet him on my next visit to Seattle. A few hours later, he responded: call me as soon as possible. Daniel, a Seattle entrepreneur and philanthropist, had raised money to build a school in eastern Guinea-Bissau. But when he got there, it was clear that local school administrators didn’t share his same vision. So instead, he wanted to help WAVS.

After an overnight visit to Canchungo, Daniel saw how the WAVS school was giving people the skills they need to get jobs. He’s now working with WAVS to find ways we can help the school grow and have a greater impact on the lives of people in Guinea-Bissau.

I want to thank Richard and Daniel for investing their talents and energy into helping bring about long-term change to one of the smallest and poorest countries in the world. And I want to thank you, too, for your prayers and support.

I hope to tell you about more coincidences in the near future.