There are not many Americans in Guinea-Bissau. After all my networking and meeting other foreigners the average number of Americans scattered around the country was 5! So when you meet an American, it’s kind of a big deal.
Meeting Chris Collins was one of those chance encounters. This was during my families trip to Bissau during my senior year of college. Ironically they met him on the boat on their way to Bubaque. I only met him later that year at a fundraising event in Fresno for a non-profit he runs called WAVS.
WAVS stands for West African Vocational School. This is the American based non-profit funding organization for a vocational school in Canchungo, Guinea-Bissau, called F.L.A.M.E. ( not sure what the acronym is).
Over the year we had gotten to know Chris pretty well, and Almamo, the schools director, even better! But we had never gone to visit the school he was directing. My mom’s trip was a good excuse to head over.
Canchungo is a small city an hour and a half north of Bissau. You can tell it has a rich history because it is one of the few cities outside of the capital that had paved roads, Portuguese style two story buildings, and even an attempt at landscaping in certain areas. The ambiance is like many cities out side of the capital: slow moving and calm, yet colorful and vibrant.
The school is just outside of the market place down an unassuming dirt road.
The school has several classrooms that host a variety of classes they offer: english, computer literacy, welding, and sewing. They even have an auto body garage for their auto mechanics class and a quarter acre space for agricultural production Currently they are providing services to 100 students, and counting!
The classes offered by this school are adding substantially to the areas economic development by providing skill sets that allow people to start their own businesses and become self sufficient in different sectors.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to catch any action, but I did get pictures of buildings and classrooms!
WAVS has their own website, so if you are interested in learning more about about them, check out! And if you are so inspired, donate to support their transformative work!
|Internet room and Computer Lab|
|Auto Mechanic Workshop|
|Exterior view of the classrooms|
|Welding School (the 1st and only place I saw an american flag)|