FROM WEST SEATTLE TO UGANDA: Success for Alina Guyon’s Libraries for All

(Photos courtesy Alina Guyon: Sheryl, Patrick, Justin, and Alina on either side of agency executive director Bolingo Ntahira show off the finished library, complete with benches out front)

By Judy Pickens
Special to West Seattle Blog

The Ugandan library that started as an ambitious idea in West Seattle is now open for business.

The 200-square-foot library, stocked with nearly 5,000 donated books, opened July 24 in the Hope of Children and Women Victims of Violence compound in Ndejje Central Zone south of Kampala, where English is commonly spoken. Run by a small staff backed by refugees and volunteers, the non-profit supports people traumatized by violence and extreme poverty with education, health care, and social entrepreneurship. Most are refugee children from South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Congo, and other African countries.

(Alina Guyon oversaw the loading of 8,000 pounds of books and other donated media, the prefabricated building, supplies, and furnishings into a container headed for Uganda)

Alina Guyon, going into her junior year at Holy Names Academy, spearheaded “Libraries for All,” from writing the business plan to stocking the shelves. Long interested in the plight of refugees, she chose the project for the impact it would have and as a way to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award.

The All the Sky Foundation got the ball rolling by offering Alina a $25,000 grant toward expenses. She put out a call in December for book donations, with VAIN Hair Salon as the principal drop-off point for West Seattle residents. Fauntleroy Church UCC and Hope Lutheran School donated by the boxful. Alki Lumber and Home Depot came through with building supplies and Better Built Barns in Salem, Oregon, signed on to prefabricate the building. Gifts from family members and friends rounded out the budget.

A shipping container left West Seattle in mid-April, packed with 8,000 pounds of building components and books. Alina, her mother Sheryl Guyon, and builders Patrick Anderson and Justin Laughery then finalized plans to meet up with the container in mid-July in Kampala.

After several days on site to get acquainted with the refugee agency and area, Alina and Sheryl faced the unexpected challenge of getting customs to release the container. A little assertiveness with “higher-ups” ended the standoff, leaving the crew only three and a half days to assemble and stock the library.

(Justin, Sheryl, and Patrick worked late into the night to finish the interior)

Each day was long and hot and the paint was barely dry when they hung the curtains right before the opening celebration.

Uganda has the fastest-growing refugee population in Africa, and violence and protracted poverty deprive many children of an education.

Through newly appointed librarian Alice (above), a 19-year-old refugee from the Congo who spent a year concentrating on learning English, Hope of Children and Women Victims of Violence will sustain free access to the library’s resources and offer movie screenings and other community events to foster literacy.

“None of this would have been possible without all the amazing support I received from people all along this journey,” said Alina. “A BIG thank you to everyone!”

Visit to read more about this project and subscribe to receive updates.

23 Replies to "FROM WEST SEATTLE TO UGANDA: Success for Alina Guyon's Libraries for All"

  • Sheila G August 17, 2017 (4:55 pm)

    Wow, this is one of the BEST news items I have read in the past few months! What a powerful story. Congratulations, Alina, on your stellar achievement. I am impressed by your vision and dedication to this wonderful project.

  • miws August 17, 2017 (5:08 pm)

    Great job by Alina and all involved! 


  • Pat August 17, 2017 (6:04 pm)

    What a wonderful story.  Truly impressed by the vision  and perseverance of all involved.  Inspiring!

  • lowmanbeachdrive August 17, 2017 (8:33 pm)

    Really moved by this.    Well done, Alina and supporters.   Wow.  

  • Sara Lowe August 17, 2017 (9:03 pm)

    Bravo!  What an inspiration you are!  We donated some books at the Fauntleroy YMCA for you and this project, it’s lovely to see photos of the library where the books live today.  Thank you for working so hard to help others.

    • Sheryl Guyon August 19, 2017 (7:34 am)

      Your books have a new life in Uganda! The refugee community is just so thrilled with the library and reading away!  There are not public libraries in Uganda and the idea of a free lending library is amazing to them.

  • Jeannie August 17, 2017 (10:18 pm)

    Beautiful story about some truly wonderful humanitarians. Our country needs more people like Alina and her supporters. Love the pic of librarian Alice, who looks so happy and proud! And the building looks really welcoming.

    • Sheryl Guyon August 19, 2017 (7:41 am)

      We were so excited that Alice was given the full time job as librarian.  With the grant from All the Sky Foundation, Alina provided funds for a part-time salary for a librarian and created the job description. It was exciting when Hope of Children and Women made it a full time position.  With little opportunity for employment in Uganda, Alice is the only sibling  in her family with a job.  

  • Brian August 18, 2017 (6:52 am)

    Yet another awesome accomplishment! The world becomes a better place when Alina (and Sheryl) put their boundless energy, passion and talents into humanitarian projects like this. Can’t wait to see what’s next!

  • Billy sigmon August 18, 2017 (9:11 am)

    Great job. Books are the greatest way to help another person grow.  Thank you and all who donated for caring. This type of project is needed more often. Thanks again. Scott

  • momof3boys August 18, 2017 (10:13 am)

    Such an inspiring story – thank you Alina for representing the US well.  You will do great things (heck, you already have) in the future!

  • Ajwren August 18, 2017 (10:31 am)

    This is such an uplifting story!  Well done, Alina, for taking a dream and a risk and pouring your heart into it for success!  Thank you!  We are lucky to have a strong ringleader and community to complete this wonderful gift for those who truly need it!

  • Alki Girl August 18, 2017 (1:03 pm)

    As I read this story I looked over at my two teenage kids, one on her phone taking selfies and the other shopping for school clothes online. Lol, I wanted to say thank you to Sheryl for raising such a smart, confident women who clearly thinks of others. Alina you are a truly giving person. Alki elementary pride!!

  • Cush August 18, 2017 (2:27 pm)

    Awesome! What a wonderful creation!

  • Dave Dally August 18, 2017 (4:55 pm)

    As someone who spent a significant amount of time in Uganda, this is kind of a big deal. In the 90s Idi Amin mass burned a lot of schools. Professors and students were killed in the genocide, he was trying to take out the (small) intellectual class (somewhat successfully). There’s a ‘brain drain’ where anyone who’s smart enough will go to Kenya where there are opportunities for them.
    When I was there teaching I taught reading with ‘fun with dick and Jane’. A lot of not subtle racism in those old books, which can be confusing because it doesn’t translate into tribal culture..
    Books are heavy and expensive to ship, these books are a big deal.

  • Rusty August 18, 2017 (5:29 pm)

    Outstanding work Alina! Less than a year for a young woman to dream up and make real a library for refugees 8,794 miles away. Now THAT is making a positive impact in the world – congratulations!

  • Peggy Cummings August 18, 2017 (9:49 pm)

    Thank you Judy Pickens for sharing  Alina’s wonderful story. So much can be accomplished by those with dreams and ideals when a community works together. Too often overlooked,  telling  our stories is so meaningful and important.

    • Sheryl Guyon August 19, 2017 (7:46 am)

      Thank you Judy!  Your talents as a writer and passion for the community continue to amaze me.

  • Alina Guyon August 19, 2017 (7:51 am)

    Thank you to everyone who commented on this post! It makes me so happy to see that people are genuinely interested in the library! It was a crazy journey thtoughout Uganda, but t was amazing! If you would like to learn more about the project, here isn’t the link to the website 

  • Julie Tilghman August 19, 2017 (9:39 am)

    So so proud of you, Alina!  You inspire so many with your vision, commitment and passion for justice!

  • Patricia August 19, 2017 (5:02 pm)

    Alina, you make Alki Elementary, Madison Middle, Holy Names, and Seattle proud to have in our midst, a young woman who contributes to better the lives of others – locally and internationally. Thank you!

    And, sincere thank you to parents Peter and Sheryl for raising two truly fine children who observed their parents routinely engaged in “roll up the sleeves” charity in soup kitchens and homeless camps…and Peter & Alina were there too.


  • Kevin F August 20, 2017 (4:35 pm)

    Amen to Patricia’s comments above, and a big thank you to Alina for teaching us all how to make a positive difference.

  • Izzie September 5, 2017 (2:34 pm)

    Wow Alina! Just Wow!!

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