How did WAVS get started?
WAVS was started by a woman named Martha Reynolds, a retired quality engineer living in the Seattle area. Martha made her first trip to Guinea-Bissau in 1994 with a church team. She was 64 years old at the time.
Martha felt a strong connection with the people she met in West Africa, so she made several more trips to Guinea-Bissau by herself throughout the 1990s. With each visit, she formed new friendships and learned more about the country.
In 2000, Martha and a small group of volunteers formed the nonprofit that eventually became West African Vocational Schools.
Martha, a widower at the time, married Herb Reynolds in 2002. The pair traveled to Guinea-Bissau almost every year from 2003 to 2012, often living in the country for up to six months at a time. It was during these trips that they laid the groundwork for the first WAVS vocational school.
Martha Reynolds with friends she made during her many trips to Guinea-Bissau in the 1990s.