I doubt there are too many missionaries who only do one specific thing, being in places with such diverse needs tends to bring out the jack-of-all-trades in people. So, we wanted to give you a little insight into a few of the different "hats" that we wear in the course of serving in Bissau. This page will be updated as progress is made, projects are completed (crossing the fingers for that day!), and new ones pop up. Lots of "side" projects get brought to us, but we'll try to keep at least the main ones current here. None of these projects are done alone, so thanks and recognition are given to all who help and support!

Jason's Projects
Youth For Christ Computer School
Status: Running, Improving

The computer school at the youth center has been my main focus for the past two trips to Africa. The computer department shares the education building with the English program, the two making up the educational arm of YFC in Bissau. The computer school has come so far in two short years that I'm excited to see where it will be in two more. We have a lot of work still to do in terms of academic development, but when you consider that two years ago our current teachers were just beginning to learn to type and use a mouse, the progress is amazing.

Today the computer school has three programs. Students first step when they come to the computer program is to learn how to type. We have three computer labs and two of them are dedicated almost exclusively to typing classes. They run in one hour classes from 9am-1pm and then 3pm-11pm, averaging about 20 students. So, about 240 students are typing five days each week. Their target in order to be able to pass to the next level of computer education is 17 words per minute. Most students who have never typed or used a computer before can achieve this in between 4 to 6 months.

After typing comes basic computer classes. The basic course is a four month course that spends a month each on Windows, Word, Excel, and Multimedia (which includes Powerpoint, digital photos, and an introduction to the internet).

The final course is intermediate computers where we spend four months working on developing the kind of computer skills that will be necessary in an office work situation. The course focuses heavily on further use of Word (making flyers and newsletters), Excel (sorting, graphing, and using calculations on data), and Access (making and using databases).

Youth Center's Computer Network
Status: Expanding, Maintaining

The computer network runs in support of the computer and typing classes, and the center in general. Although I have designed the network with simplicity in mind, keeping 45 computers and two servers with a terabyte of data running with unstable generator power for 12 hours a day with no maintenance downtime so that the secretaries and computer classes can keep working is no small task. The network has several "interesting" aspects that are necessitated by running from sporadic generators. A video tour is in the works, so check back for that later.

Alternative Energy Ideas
Status: Hairbrained-scheme (aka Development)

I've been reading a lot recently about different ways we might be able to generate power in Bissau. There are several potential applications to us, including the fact that the center spends about $1000 a month on diesel to run the generators that keep our computers and classroom air conditioners running. Smaller applications include powering our personal laptops, and providing limited power for smaller villages where even generator fuel is harder to come by.

My curiosity about the subject was piqued during a trip to the German Museum in Münich. They had some amazing displays of older machines, starting from a pump that needs no fuel or power in order to operate, all the way through windmills, water wheels, and steam engines. It got me thinking about all of the possibilities in Africa. So, I've been reading a ton about wind and hydro power recently.

The other circumstance that has facilitated this project is that I'm working at a bus factory that has all kinds of tools and know-how relating to metalworking. So, I've been able to learn how to weld and get access to some other things that have helped the idea a lot. The first project is called a Vertical Axis Wind Turbine (VAWT) and you can find information about my alternative energy projects here.

Machine Shop
Status: Setting Up

While in the U.S., a church in Tulsa donated equipment, including a beautiful new generator/welder, for YFC Bissau's work. It had been a point of serious frustration our first two times in Bissau to be so interested in tinkering on various projects but not having the tools to do anything. While we were home Jason was able to spend some time looking for good deals on tools, equipment, and supplies on places like Craigslist and Ebay to augment the awesome stuff that was given to us.

The vision for the machine shop is twofold. First of all, we hope to find a few things that can be produced regularly that can be sold to make money to help support the machine shop and the youth center in general. Every new revenue stream we add for the youth center is like another root that gives the tree more stability and ability to weather drought.

The more exciting vision for the machine shop is to be able to do some research and fabrication in an area called “appropriate technology”. The idea is simply to build very basic, simple machines that can make a big difference in rural life. Most of the ideas are to assist in agriculture, though there are a few other possibilities as well. The first project we'll be tackling is a rice thresher, something that could save a lot of hours in Guinea-Bissau!

The machine shop is currently under construction, don't forget to check on the progress of the shop and the pictures of our future projects on the shop page!

Emily's Projects
Youth For Christ English School
Status: Running, Improving

Our English school in Bissau has two purposes – to teach English excellently, and to share the freedom that comes from a personal relationship with Jesus. We want each of our students to understand who Jesus is, what He did for them, and how He can change their lives.

When we got to Guinea-Bissau Polly was in the process of revamping all of the existing curriculum that the English school had been using. She was also training new teachers some new Guinean English teachers. As I got more comfortable teaching I was able to help out and I even wrote the curriculum for the our level 3 English class. When we went to Bissau the second time I got more involved with teacher training, and I loved that even more than teaching.

Right now our English school has four main English classes: Basic, level 1, level 2, and level 3. All of the classes teach really solid English – grammar, vocab, etc. - and they all have lots of speaking, writing, reading, and listening practice. Looking ahead we would like to add more levels of English and a solid English teacher training program so that Guineans can set up little English schools around Guinea-Bissau and continue the work we started of teaching English excellently and spreading the good news of Jesus.

African Purses
Status: Successful

In Guinea-Bissau people love bright colors! Whenever I walk into a fabric shop I am almost overwhelmed by the swirling patterns and bold hues. I love it. I always want to bring that feeling back and share it with people here, so I did!

One of our neighbors is a seamstress and she has been working with Polly making bags to sell in America and Guinea-Bissau for several years. Because of all of the bags that she has been able to sell already she and her family recently were able to build a new mud-brick house. I love the idea of helping people find jobs in Guinea-Bissau, so I had her make me about 60 purses and I brought them back to the States to sell them.

The quilted, multi fabric, look of the purses is called “choppa-choppa” and it's one of the favorite styles of really nice clothes in Guinea-Bissau. It's done by cutting the different fabrics into small squares and then sewing the different squares together. Some of the purses are just choppa-choppa and some of them have a solid color piece with Africa made out of the choppa-choppa material on the front.

I am currently selling them for $25, so if you are interested in buying one let me know!