When Mario Djedjo, the WAVS School’s English instructor, first got to know his 14-year-old neighbor, Victor, he invited him to enroll in the WAVS School so he could learn English.
Even though few people in Guinea-Bissau speak English, Mario knows that the language can open up new opportunities for young people and connect them with the rest of the world.
“So I asked Victor, ‘Why not study English?’” Mario said.
Victor was eager to learn, but his father wouldn’t let him.
“So I went to speak with his father and he said that the problem was money,” Mario said. “He couldn’t pay for private high school and pay for the WAVS School’s English class at the same time. So I told him that the course is not expensive – just 5,000 cefa (about $8.50) per month.”
Victor’s father was surprised to find out he could afford English classes for his son and he immediately signed him up.Two years later, Victor has worked his way through four levels of English and is now in his 5th and final level. He’s one of Mario’s favorite students.
But the story doesn’t end there.
“What really moved me in my heart was that four months ago, I started a Bible study in my house,” Mario said. “Victor was one of the first that I invited. At first he didn’t come, but after a while he started to attend. Now he never misses a day. This is the beginning of something for him to learn about Jesus. Once I asked him if he wanted to become Jesus’ friend and he ‘Yes, of course.’”
Join us in thanking Mario for having such a huge impact on the lives of young people in his community!
What counts as a job in Guinea-Bissau? Almost anything.
In a country where half the population lives in severe poverty and the government can’t pay its school teachers and hospital nurses, young people in Gineau-Bissau like João da Cruz Djedjo must find creative ways just to get by.
João, 22, is an auto body welder who repairs rusted-out cars and vans. He doesn’t have much. His workshop is a large patch of dirt a few hundred feet from the main road in town. His only shade is a nearby mango tree. His hardware is an oxygen tank, a tiny fuel tank, and a blowtorch. There’s no electricity, hardly any hand tools, and his assistant is a neighborhood boy.
But with these simple resources – and with the training he received from a nine-month welding program at the WAVS School last year– João is able to turn a small profit.
No auto body job is too big for João; he does it all. João showed me an old Mercedes that looked like it belonged in a junk yard.
“I’ve repaired cars like this, and I’ll repair this one, too,” he said.
João has been welding since he was 8 years old. He enrolled in the WAVS School’s welding program so he could expand his skills set. During the course, he learned about gas and electric welding, machining work, and he helped install a zinc roof.
“I gained a lot of experience,” João said. “And I’ve used this experience to learn how to properly rebuild a car.”
João uses the money he earns from his work to provide for himself and his parents. His goal is to build his own shop one day. “I just want to work,” he said. “I want to use what I’ve learned. I don’t want to have my diploma just sitting there. I want to use my skills.”
Thanks to WAVS Teacher Sponsors who help keep tuition at the WAVS School affordable, young and ambitious people like João have the chance to turn their future plans into reality. I’m inspired by his story. And I invite you to be a part of it – and many other stories like his.
Today, you can become a teacher sponsor and equip young women and men in one of the world’s smallest and poorest countries with life-changing jobs skills. Today, you can be a part of their stories.
By Holly Collins, WAVS Board Advisor April 28, 2016
Profession: Canchungo Government Office of Identification Studies at School: English Level 1 Age: 27 Interviewed at her place of work
All eight of Natividade Gomes’ siblings have struggled to find steady employment in Guinea-Bissau, a country where half the population lives in severe poverty and the economy is chronically unstable. And after their father passed away, her aging mother had no source of income.
That’s why Natividade is determined to do everything she can to find work.
“Since I was little, my mother took care of me and did everything for me,” said Natividade, 27. “Now my mother is old with no one to care for her. That’s why I am proud to work and to take care of my mother.”
Natividade recently found an internship with a government office that issues ID cards – an opportunity that may lead to a full-time job. She is also studying English at the WAVS School to prepare herself for future job opportunities.
“For me, the first thing I want is to do is read and write and speak English,” Natividade said. “When there are job fairs, the employers want to know if you have studied another language.”
She’s thankful that the WAVS School is in her town, which is more than 40 miles from the capital, Bissau, where most schools are located.
“By the grace of God, this school is here in Canchungo,” Natividade said. “If you don’t have money to study in Bissau, then you can study here. I thank God for that.”
Thanks to her hard work ethic, Natividade’s future looks promising.
“My mother is happy,” she said. “Sometimes we don’t see each other for long periods of time because I am working and studying and I come home tired and then do the same thing the next day. But my mother is happy and she says to me, ‘the job is good, work hard.’”
By Holly Collins, WAVS Board Advisor April 26, 2016
Ernesto Batica Ferreira
Profession: Director de Eschola 1 de Junho Studies at School: Computers Age: 60 years old Interviewed at the 1st of June School in his office
Batica Ferreria, a 60-year-old school director, shows off shelves full of binders with hand-written names and test scores. This is how Batica keeps track of his students’ records in his small primary school. He is often here until late at night recording student data.
But that may soon change. Batica recently completed a computer basics course at the WAVS School so that he can be ready to switch over to an electronic records system once the school sets up its computer lab. He can’t wait.
“I didn’t know anything about computers before this course,” Batica said. “But now I know all about computers.”
Batica’s says he’s thankful that the WAVS School is serving a wide range of students – from young teenagers preparing for university studies to established professionals who need more training.
“The school is helping many people in Canchungo,” he said. “People can go to the school and pay just a small tuition fee and learn. I thank God because of the school.”
By Holly Collins, WAVS Board Advisor April 26, 2016
Profession: Pastor of Evangelical Church Studies at School: Level 3 English Age: - Interviewed at the WAVS school
Pastor João Mendes knows that a lack of access to education can lead to a lack of hope.
He grew up in a small village in Guinea-Bissau where the local public school provided education only up to 6th grade. His family left the village when he was 10 years old and João was able to continue his studies. Eventually, he became a pastor and has now planted his own church.
In the meantime, João is also studying English at the WAVS School so that he can communicate with missionaries and read English-language books. He’s thankful that young people in the surrounding villages can attend the WAVS School, as well, and take advantage of an opportunity he didn’t have when he was younger. The students often walk or bike several miles to the school each day.
“In this region, there is no other school like it,” João said. “The school helps many people envision a better future. They can gain skills that help them make a living.”
By Holly Collins, WAVS Board Advisor April 26, 2016
Profession: Student Age: 23 Years Old Studies at school: Currently Level 4 English with Mario Interviewed at her home in Bario Novu, Canchungo
Delfina Domingos appears reserved and quiet, but she’s determined to pursue her dreams. We sit behind her family’s home, across town from the WAVS School. She tells me about the future she envisions for herself and the skills she is gaining as an English student at the school.
Her father is a lawyer and speaks English – a language that only a small percentage of people in Guinea-Bissau speak, but a skill that can open up many opportunities for those who learn it. Delfina dreams to follow in her father’s footsteps, so she enrolled in the English course at the WAVS School.
“I heard it was a good school with good teachers” said Delfina, 23, who is the eldest of four siblings. “I love the teachers here. They are patient and take time to explain everything. I also enjoy it when we study the Bible in class.”
Like many young people in Guinea-Bissau, Delfina moved to the capital after she finished high school, hoping to find work.
“I had heard of opportunities in Bissau, but I needed to speak English,” she said. “So I returned here to finish my studies at the WAVS School.”
Even though her family’s home is almost an hour-long walk away from the school, she attends every day. Delfina even convinced her neighbor to enroll with her so they could practice together.
“Everything is going well,” she said. “I am very happy with the school. I just wish there were more teachers and more classes to help more people learn these things.”
By Emily Hentschke, March 2016 WAVS Associate Director
Due to the prevalence of unjust, corrupt, and criminal actions of the government of Guinea-Bissau, the country as a whole has a poor reputation and people on the national and international level do not have much trust in its stability. The WAVS School administrative assistant Epifanio experienced this firsthand while he was studying in the Gambia. He shared that while abroad he learned “Guineans have a bad reputation for being dishonest and unaccountable because of all of the corruption and drug trading in our country.” Rather than be discouraged by this fact, he decided to make it his mission to see the improvements he was making at the WAVS school as part of his contribution to the overall development of his country.
Over the last several years, the accounting system at the WAVS School, which Epifanio manages, has been brought up to a much higher professional standard of organization and reliability, a very rare thing in this country. When the WAVS Board members recently visited for their third year, they were thrilled with how much the system has progressed and Epifanio was thrilled with the level of accountability and integrity the school is able to demonstrate through these improvements. He sees his work at the WAVS School as a way to help better the reputation of the country and its moral business standards one small step at a time. Epifanio’s correlation between his work and the larger application it can have for his country is exactly what WAVS hopes to achieve.
Each improvement we make and step forward we take, creates opportunities and increases the potential of countrywide development. The life change and economic opportunity being created at the WAVS School raises the level of hope as well as the standards that the people of Guinea-Bissau can hold their country to. Central to the mission of WAVS is the belief that the work we are doing to equip and empower individual students and staff plays a larger role in the transformation of the country of Guinea-Bissau, and we are so grateful that we have people like Epifanio on our team living out that mission.
By Emily Hentschke, March 2016 WAVS Associate Director
Each staff member walked in to the WAVS classroom on a humid Friday afternoon with a smile. They all graciously came up to shake the hands of the board members and myself then began laughing and joking with each other as they waited for the all-staff meeting to begin. Earlier in the week Mario, the Language Department Head told us “We are happy. We have a bright team and a very strong one.” As the meeting went on, the camaraderie, passion, and genuine love that I observed further validated Mario’s statement and confirmed to me that the WAVS staff are more than just coworkers, but they are a family who care deeply about each other and their mission at the school.
There are 19 staff members at the school, and from the guards, to the teachers, to the administration, it is very clear that everyone is equally committed to serving the students and each other. For example, the WAVS School staff have all agreed to set aside part of their paychecks every month to keep a care fund for each other. Whenever someone is experiencing a hardship like a family illness, or an exciting life transition such as having a new child, the staff pool together their set aside funds to support that person. At this meeting, they were celebrating and reminding everyone to pool their funds for one of the guard’s upcoming wedding. Mario told us “The best part about the job is the team,” and with support and love like that, I can absolutely see why.
Of the two weeks I spent in Guinea-Bissau, the hour spent with the whole staff was one of my favorites. It was so powerful to experience the familial community that has been built at the WAVS school knowing how great of an impact this bond has on the success of the school and on the staff. Cierlo, the Welding Department Head shared “I see that the school contributes to change in people’s lives, especially for the staff.” Right now many of the public school teachers in Guinea-Bissau are on strike for more fair treatment and consistent wages, so being able to work for an organization that is not only doing so much good for the community, but is also creating its own community of staff who are happy and well-supported is a true blessing and a rarity in this country. After a meeting of hearing about and witnessing how being part of the WAVS School has changed the lives of the staff, I walked out of the WAVS classroom on that humid Friday afternoon with a big smile.
As we pulled onto the rough and bumpy dirt roads of Canchungo after our long drive from the airport, we were greeted by adults starting at us seemingly confused and children smiling, waving, and pointing at us calling out, “Branco! Branco!” (sounds like Bronco, which would be cool, but actually just means “white” in Portuguese) along the roads to where we’d be staying. Shortly after we got settled into our rooms we were off to our first creole lesson at the WAVS school where our teacher, a young man who is friends with Chris and Holly Collins, started our lesson with a short devotional. The simple act of initiating that simple devotion before our language lesson was a perfect start to our time in Guinea.
Each day we dove deeper into our relationships with the staff, our involvement with the school, and learning the culture. Throughout our time in Canchungo we assisted in English classes at the school, participated in mechanics and welding classes, played soccer with the youth, and got to share most of our meals with staff members from the WAVS school. Over a short amount of time we learned to embrace vulnerability as we spent a lot of time without interpreters exploring the local market street, talking with students at the school, and spending time with faculty and their families in their homes. It was in those times of vulnerability that we learned more and had some of the best experiences. Whether it was struggling to communicate how and why I did not have either a wife or girlfriends back home to the welding teacher that somehow lead into singing worship songs around the dinner table with his family, or laughing and joking with the assistant school director that eventually turned into a conversation about how gracious God is in His provision and guidance in the lives of His people, each interaction was enriched through some level of vulnerability being embraced.
It was also very apparent that Christ was a large part of the lives of the staff there. Without being told to do so, the faculty start each class with a short devotional, so no matter what Christ is present in each class session and put as the priority. Their hearts to serve and live out their faith exactly where God has placed them was refreshing and admirable to say the least. They’ve recognized the call Christ has for them and have whole heartedly devoted their lives to it. In turn, the impact the school is having in Canchungo is evident through hearing how many people know about it, seeing the classes full of eager students, and hearing the way people talk about how it has provided new opportunities to benefit people from all over Guinea-Bissau. Hearing the stories of staff and students’ lives, how they ended up with WAVS, and why they choose to do what they do was a very refreshing, energizing and refocusing experience.
It’s clear that WAVS is also growing and its potential for greater impact is being recognized. WAVS is well known in the town of Canchungo and well-spoken of there, but the picture is much larger than just the small town. Soon enough they will be growing as there will be a second campus being built in the capital city on the same grounds as a private university. Getting to visit the place that God has provided the ministry to grow and continue to impact Guinea-Bissau was amazing. As well, visiting a network of other strong ministries and organizations nearby, not only to see what else God has been doing in the country, but to see an example of the strong potential WAVS has and to know the support WAVS has behind them in this journey for encouragement and guidance.
Spending these past two weeks with this ministry and the people here has been an absolutely incredible experience. Sadly, I cannot cover every significant moment in this short blog post and I am not capable of being nearly as poetic enough in my writing to fully capture the beauty, frustration, joy, awkwardness, happiness, confusion, and love that we saw and experienced while there and how all of that plays a role in how we saw and felt Christ’s love being shared there. WAVS is an amazing ministry and the work they are doing to share the love of Christ in Guinea-Bissau by coming alongside the beautiful people there with vocational training is absolutely incredible and it was an honor to get to experience it firsthand.
Riding in the back of his chauffeured SUV through the streets of Guinea-Bissau’s capital, Fresno State alum Domingos Pereira listed the signs of progress in his country. Since he became prime minister last year, his government has paved roads, installed solar street lights in villages, and attracted new investors.
But Guinea-Bissau, one of the poorest countries in the world, is still the Wild West of West Africa. Politicians here tend to have short careers – and sometimes short life spans.
“This job is not easy,” Pereira told me. “The danger is real.”
Pereira knows what he signed up for. The last legitimate prime minister was dragged from his home and held hostage by the army when he tried to run for president in 2012 with a pledge to reform the military. The army left a giant blast-hole in the front gate of his downtown villa as a warning: We get to decide who will be president, not the people.
I had jumped in the back of Pereira’s SUV on a typical hot and humid afternoon in May for a 15-minute ride to the sprawling government complex that China built for Guinea-Bissau a few years ago. It was only my second time meeting Pereira, but it felt like seeing an old friend. I had followed his rise in the country’s ruling political party over the last two years and we had kept in touch by email.
We also had a mutual friend, Alfredo da Silva, who was Pereira’s roommate when they studied at Fresno State in the early 1990s. West African Vocational Schools is based in Fresno, where Alfredo still lives. According to Fresno State, Pereira is the university’s first alum to become the head-of-government of any country.
I looked out the backseat window as we passed crowded markets, potholed roads, and a ménage of rusty Mercedes taxis, shiny UN Land Cruisers, and swerving motorbikes. We weren’t far from where Pereira’s predecessor was captured by the military.
My thoughts turned inward: Is it really such a great idea to ride in the same SUV as Guinea-Bissau’s prime minister? How well-trained is his security detail? Are these windows bullet-proof?
Pereira is different than almost any politician Guinea-Bissau has had in the past. He’s educated and has years of experience working for international organizations. He could work almost anywhere in the world, but instead he has a job that probably should come with hazard pay.
I had lots of questions for him: How are you going to reform a country that has had more military coups than any other country in Africa? How are you going to cure endemic corruption? How are you going to rebuild Guinea-Bissau?
Pereira said his strategy was simple: He would keep making deep, systemic changes that have real, long-lasting results. Fire the wrong people and hire the right people. Restore electricity. Pave the roads. Open up trade. Collect taxes. Eventually, people will realize that his reforms are working and won’t allow the country’s power-brokers to undo them.
This won’t be easy in a country where 60% of the population is illiterate. Here, rumors are used to turn actual heroes into imagined villains – and vice versa. Still, I told Pereira, it seemed like the best strategy.
“Yes, but I hope it works,” he said.
Pereira had invited my wife, Holly Collins, and I to meet him so he could hear more about the WAVS School in Canchungo, a town about 40 miles outside the capital. It’s the only vocational school in a region of about 40,000 people. The school’s courses in auto mechanics, welding, computer basics, English and French are all designed to help young women and men get jobs in Guinea-Bissau – a country with no safety net – so they can support their families. Since opening in 2007, the school has served more than 550 students, many of whom have gone on to find jobs.
“This is exactly what our country needs,” Pereira told us.
In the three months since our meeting, the tensions in Guinea-Bissau have grown. Last week, Pereira posted a message on his official Facebook page calling for calm as rumors swirled that the president of Guinea-Bissau, Jose Mario Vaz, was upset with Pereira’s reforms and wanted to fire him.
How long will Pereira last as prime minister? Several foreign diplomats that I spoke with in Bissau said they were thankful he had lasted even a year.
It will take courageous reformers like Pereira to bring real change. Our job is to support such leaders and do all we can to invest in the country’s future.
Join us for the 3rd annual WAVS dinner banquet at Moravia Wines on Friday, October 2nd. The evening will include unlimited wine tasting, West African cuisine, dessert, live music, an auction, and a special presentation about your partnership with WAVS. Watch the video below to see a recap of last year’s event!
Ticket prices are $50/individual, $95/couple.You can buy your tickets by clicking here.Purchase your tickets soon, as we have a maximum of 300 tickets this year! Contact info@WAVSchools.org or (206) 552-8151 with any questions. Corporate sponsorship packages are still available.
It’s not easy to get a reliable, paying job in Guinea-Bissau. Even the country’s port authority is often broke and unable to pay its own workers. But that hasn’t stopped WAVS School graduates Domingos Djedjo and Alexandre Camola from trying.
Domingos, 28, and Alexandre, 24, graduated from the WAVS auto mechanics program in June 2014. Using its connections with local businesses and government agencies, WAVS arranged for them to intern at Guinea-Bissau’s port authority, where they have been working alongside experienced mechanics to repair port vehicles and maintain heavy machinery. The internships are unpaid, but Domingos and Alexandre are just glad to be working – somewhere.
“It’s because of the training we received at the school that we can work here and have this opportunity,” said Alexandre, a father supporting his wife and two young girls. “The people here see us working hard and recognize how well-trained we are. This means the future is very promising and there’s a possibility that I will be able to work here full-time.”
Domingos, who prior to his training at the WAVS School had only completed basic primary school, said the mixture of theory and hands-on training he received with WAVS mechanics program prepared him for this internship.
“I learned a lot at the school,” Domingos said. “It will help me in the future.”
Tomorrow, for one day only, you can give other young people like Domingos and Alexandre this same opportunity – the chance to gain a skill, find work, and create a brighter future for themselves. Your generous one-time gift to the WAVS mechanics program will keep tuition affordable for young people in Guinea-Bissau who want to work their way out of poverty.
Even better, every gift made on Tuesday – and Tuesday only – will be partially matched by the Seattle Foundation and the first $2,500 will be doubled by the Seattle International Foundation.
Guinea-Bissau’s youth are ready. Give them the opportunity.
Donate to WAVS on Tuesday, May 5 by clicking the link below:
Many of you donated toward Friday’s goal of raising $21,000 to fully sponsor Mario Djedjo, the WAVS School’s Language Director, for three years. In the end, you gave a total of $29,428– not including a generous $15,000 match from the Forward Advantage Foundation in Fresno, bringing the total for the night to $44,428! (This was three times what was raised last year). We would like to extend a special thank you to the 4 new teacher sponsors who signed up to help fund Mario on a monthly basis. Your contributions will help us not only fully fund the Language Department, but also the other departments at the school. Thank you
If you haven’t had the chance yet, you can still make a one-time donation toward helping fund the WAVS School. You can also sign up to become a monthly teacher sponsor. 3) The WAVS Team
More than 45volunteers worked tirelessly to plan the banquet, invite guests and sponsors, set up tables and chairs, cook a delicious meal to feed a small army, decorate the venue, set up sound and video, welcome guests, serve wine and food, document the event, manage the auctions and much more. Because of the hard work of the WAVS Team and our generous sponsors, this event cost less than 20% of what it should have. Thank you to the dedicated WAVS Team!
4) You enjoyed a unique buffet
Chef Alfredo from Guinea-Bissau outdid himself this year – his West African cooking, backed by some great volunteers, turned out amazing. Come back next year for some more of Alfredo’s famous spicy soup and select local wines. In case you’re wondering, here are the food stats:
142 pounds of pork
197pounds of chicken
120 pounds of tilapia
7 cases of wine
5) You showed solidarity with Guinea-Bissau’s new prime minister
Fresno State alumnus Domingos Pereira shared a special 5-minute video message with us on Friday that highlighted why it’s so important for us to invest in his country and its youth at this critical time in its history. If you missed it, you can watch it here.
We hope to see you next year! If you would like to host a table or help sponsor the dinner banquet in 2015, please let us know by responding to this email.
Thank you again to our sponsors and corporate donors:
Domingos Simões Pereira is honored at the 1994 Fresno State University graduation ceremony after completing his masters in civil engineering. Pereira, who spent 2 ½ years at Fresno State, is now the prime minister of Guinea-Bissau, the highest-ranking government official in the country.
In the spring of 1994, a young student from Guinea-Bissau named Domingos Simões Pereira walked up on stage at the Fresno State University graduation ceremony to receive his master’s degree in civil engineering. For the past 2 ½ years Domingos had studied at the university alongside five other Guineans who had been awarded scholarships to study in the United States. It was an important step forward for his education – an education that, two decades later, would prepare him for the biggest challenge of his life: Help salvage his home country from years of military coups, a disastrous economy, and rampant corruption.
Now you and I have the chance to join Domingos in helping transform his country. Following elections in Guinea-Bissau in April this year, Domingos was appointed prime minister, the highest-ranked government position in the country. He’s already implemented a flurry of reforms – including helping replace the country’s coup-prone military chief last month – while at the same time trying to guard Guinea-Bissau against the Ebola epidemic that has engulfed West Africa.
The Fresno State alum is the right man for the job. But he can use all the help he can get. That’s why I’m excited to invite you to the 2nd annual WAVS Dinner Banquet this Friday. In one night, we will raise the funds needed to sustain and grow the WAVS School’s Language Department in Guinea-Bissau for the next three years – giving hundreds of young Guinean women and men the skills they need to follow in Domingos’ footsteps to get a higher education, find higher-paying jobs, and transform their country from the bottom up.
Now is the perfect time to get in on the ground floor of helping reshape Guinea-Bissau’s story. I hope to see you on Oct. 10!
Join us for our second annual WAVS dinner banquet, ‘Dine and Discover West Africa’ at 6 p.m. on October 10, 2014. Be a part of helping transform one of the smallest and poorest countries in the world by giving young women and men the skills training they need to get jobs.
At the beautiful Moravia Wines in Fresno, CA, you’ll enjoy West African cuisine, local wine and beer tasting, live music, a live auction, and more. Tickets are $40 per person or $75 per couple. For more details and to buy tickets, click here.
MORE ABOUT THE DINNER BANQUET
Dine on authentic cuisine from Guinea-Bissau and select local wines…
Discover the surprising connection between the Valley and this tiny country’s future…
Two years after a military coup, Guinea-Bissau finds itself at a historic crossroads. At the intersection is one man – Fresno State alumnus Domingos Simões Pereira, who was appointed prime minister of the country in June and tasked with the job of saving Guinea-Bissau from another decade of extreme poverty and instability.
Join us in helping create a brighter future for Domingos’ country on October 10th as WAVS hosts its second annual dinner banquet featuring West African cuisine, local wine tasting, live music from violinist Patrick Contreras, a live auction, and a multimedia presentation about how the Valley community is working with WAVS to give young men and women critical job skills so they can become effective leaders of change in one of the world’s smallest and poorest countries.
Now more than ever, Guinea-Bissau needs the Valley’s support. Be a part of shaping history on October 10th.
When: Friday, October 10th, 2014; wine tasting and live music starts at 6 p.m.; dinner and presentation begin at 7 p.m. Where: Moravia Wines (3620 N Bishop Ave, Fresno, CA 93723); 10 minutes west of Fresno off Shaw Avenue. Click here for Google Maps and directions. What: Dinner banquet with authentic Guinea-Bissau food, wine-tasting, dessert, live auction, music from violinist Patrick Contreras, WAVS presentation Tickets: $40 for individuals and $75 for couples. Buy tickets here. Questions? E-mail us at info(at)WAVSchools(dot)org
LIVE AUCTION ITEMS INCLUDE:
A week-long stay at a clean and cozy cabin in the picturesque mountain town of Greenville
Two nights at an ocean view cottage in Cambria
A performance from Fresno’s renowned and versatile violinist Patrick Contreras (perfect for weddings or a party)
The WAVS School director, Almamo Danfá, hosted a school exhibition and entrepreneurship training workshop last month that drew more than 120 people from the community, including business owners, students and women who sell goods in the local markets. The keynote speaker was an executive at the Bissau-based Banco da África Ocidental who has written a book on micro loans.
Almamo also used the opportunity to share about the WAVS ExtraCredit program, as well as to promote the school’s courses and training opportunities.
A Guinea-Bissau customs official looks out his window near the border of Guinea-Conakry and Guinea-Bissau earlier this year. The prime minister of Guinea-Bissau last week ordered the border sealed in order to prevent the spread of Ebola.
HOW DOES THE WORLD STOP THE EBOLA EPIDEMIC? It’s a deadly disease with a fatality rate of 60% to 90%. But it’s also a virus that can be contained – if you have a functioning medical system, an educated population and a stable government. The virus is not airborne, so efforts such as quarantines, health education and a strong corp of indigenous doctors would be enough to stop its spread.
In developed countries, an Ebola outbreak would be quickly snuffed out. But in West Africa, one of the least developed regions in the world, basic counter-measures aren’t working. After years of wars and instability, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Conakry (which shares a long, porous border with Guinea-Bissau), are all struggling to contain the virus. A lack of medical infrastructure, skilled physicians, and a low level of education makes the job almost impossible.
To attack the root cause of such epidemics, it’s not just a medical solution that is needed. In the long run, we believe that political stability, education, and a trained population are the best counter-measures.
We pray for a quick end to the Ebola epidemic. Meanwhile, we continue to work hard to prepare Guinea-Bissau for its future, knowing that the investment we are making in young men and women today to be leaders of tomorrow – in government, business and society – will ultimately be the best way to prevent such crises in the years to come. Join us.
An update on Guinea-Bissau and Ebola
In Guinea-Bissau there have been no reported cases of Ebola so far. But just across the border, Guinea-Conakry (commonly referred to simply as Guinea) has suffered hundreds of deaths from Ebola. As a precautionary measure, Guinea-Bissau’s new prime minister, Fresno State University graduate Domingos Simões Pereira, announced last week that he was closing his country’s borders with Guinea-Conakry, one of only two countries that border Guinea-Bissau.
“It is obvious that when the countries around us, such as Guinea, Sierra Leone and others already have a presence of this disease, Guinea-Bissau cannot rest and think that it is not at risk,” Pereira told local media.
The prime minister has also called on civic groups and the media to help raise awareness about Ebola and educate the population. He is appealing for funds from foreign donors to help contain the epidemic and to finance a contingency plan. Portugal, the country’s former colonial power, has already shipped 15 tons of medical supplies to Guinea-Bissau.
Please continue to pray for West Africa, Guinea-Bissau and its prime minister.
Written by Chris Collins, WAVS Executive Director. Contact Chris at chris@WAVSchools.org.
SANGER FARMERS DAVE AND LORI MARLER KNOW that Westerners cannot single-handily transform a place like Guinea-Bissau, one of the world’s smallest and poorest countries. That’s why they sponsor a Guinean instructor at the WAVS School and attend WAVS fundraisers, concerts and events in the Central Valley.
“It’s empowering,” Dave said of the WAVS School. “It isn’t just Americans going over there to teach.”
The Marlers appreciate the holistic approach of WAVS and its focus on job skills training and spiritual development.
“The practical things they are trained in – that’s important,” Dave said. “It is also important to us that the Gospel is taught.”
Besides their involvement with WAVS, the Marlers also volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. In the past, Dave has helped with the nonprofit’s home construction projects for low-income families. If he ever visits the WAVS School in Canchungo, Dave said, he hopes to use his construction skills to help.
The Marlers currently live on their farm in Sanger maintaining fruit tree orchards. Dave oversees their crops and Lori is a special education resource specialist. Both are Fresno State University alum. The Marlers also host a small group Bible study with The Well Community Church.
They love to travel and recently took a trip to England and Ireland with their two children. Lori likes to read and hike, and Dave loves fly fishing, traveling to Kings Canyon National Park, Montana, and Alaska.
Andrew Veihmeyer is an intern with West African Vocational Schools. You can contact him at info@WAVSchools.org.
If you would like to join Dave and Lori in supporting WAVS, you can make a special one-time donation to the school or you can sign up for the WAVS Teacher Sponsorship Program here.
Sheila van der Smissen first heard about WAVS through her drum instructor, Mamady Kourouma, a West Africa immigrant who had performed at a WAVS benefit concert in Fresno, California. What attracted Sheila to WAVS was the longevity of the mission and the fact that the school was run by African teachers.
Even though WAVS is a small organization, Sheila said, it has a visible impact on students. She said she felt connected to the students through stories she heard about them.
“That’s why I want to support WAVS,” said Sheila, who has been a donor since 2011.
Born in Dinuba, she later attended Fresno State University to become a clinical laboratory scientist, receiving her BS in Biology. After graduating, she was anxious to explore the world.
In 1975, Sheila went on a trip to Kenya and Tanzania to see the animals that were being threatened by big-game hunters. Later, this passion for the continent’s wildlife developed into a heart for the people of Africa. She conducted lab testing to promote better health for the local people and contributed to medical research in Sudan for 12 years. The experience changed her life.
“My heart is still in Africa,” she said.
Sheila met her first husband in Sudan and gave birth to her daughter in the capital city, Khartoum.
Since then, Sheila has looked for opportunities to improve the health conditions of people in Africa. She has participated in projects in Ethiopia and in Malawi, working with medical experts in the field of clinical lab research.
She and her teams started their projects by showing local people how to conduct clinical tests for malaria patients.
“And since then, they have taken over the training,” Sheila said.
She says her time in Africa has given her a fresh perspective on her abundant life in America. Among those she met during her travels was their houseboy who would take care of them and, at the end of each day, go outside to sleep in his tent. In spite of many losses and tragedies in his family, he still seemed to be happy, Sheila said.
“Even if I’m having a bad day, it would be an enviable day for them,” she said.
Sheila, who received her MBA from Fresno State University in 1991, currently works in clinical information systems for Kaiser Permanente in Fresno. Outside of work, Sheila enjoys her hobbies on her Auberry farmland growing fruits, vegetables, raising poultry, and most recently, beekeeping.
Andrew Veihmeyer is an intern with West African Vocational Schools. You can contact him at info@WAVSchools.org.