I’ve had the privilege of getting to know many of our welding students since moving to Guinea-Bissau earlier this year. One thing I have discovered is that many of those students have already studied at other schools or universities in the past.
But in a country with few salaried jobs available, their education hasn’t been enough to get a job. And for some of them, they couldn’t afford to finish their studies, so they had to drop out of school.
Either way, they’ve now decided to become welders.
Why? Because they’ve seen that skilled trade workers actually earn a better income than many people in their country.
In Guinea-Bissau, the minimum wage is less than $100 per month. And it’s even worse for government workers, who often don’t get paid at all.
Rukas is one of our welding students. He studied English at a local language school and then enrolled in a local university to study International Relations. But part-way through his university degree, his parents could no longer afford to pay tuition, so he dropped out.
Rukas realized that if he wanted to continue his education, he first would need to find a way to support himself financially. So when he saw a post on Facebook that there was an affordable welding course starting at the WAVS campus in Bissau, the capital city, he immediately enrolled.
As I’ve gotten to know Rukas, I’ve seen that he’s a natural leader. In class, he often demonstrates welding techniques to his classmates. He does this with a calm voice and steady presence. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought he was another welding instructor.
Rukas says he enjoys the thrill of welding and the satisfaction he feels when he looks at something he created with his own hands, such as the security doors and shelving units he’s recently helped build as part of his training.
After learning about why Rukas enrolled in the welding course, I realized that for some of our students, becoming a welder isn’t their end goal; rather, it’s a next step forward in pursuing other opportunities.
I’m hopeful we can give more young people like Rukas this same opportunity. That’s why I’m looking forward to WAVS breaking ground on a brand-new, 16,000-square-foot Training Center that will serve up to 200 students each year. The building will include four training labs where students will learn welding, civil construction, machining and carpentry.
But to start using the new Training Center, we first need to purchase tools and machines for the students to practice their new skills. If we can raise $50,000 by the end of June, we’ll be able to purchase and ship over the welders, drill presses, band saws, and tool kits needed for the Training Center to open on schedule.