By Judy Pickens
Special to West Seattle Blog
The red-light district in Kolkata, India, is a long way from home for Fauntleroy resident Alina Guyon but it’s where she and her mother, Sheryl Guyon, spent two weeks in April to create the second Libraries for All resource.
As reported here in August, Alina’s first venture was to plan, fund, ship, assemble, and stock a 200-sq. ft. library in an impoverished suburb of Kampala, Uganda, that has become a waystation for women and children fleeing violence in several African countries. With that one complete, she turned her attention to creating a safe learning place for the children of brothel workers in a different but equally challenging setting.
Using a grant from the Seattle-based All the Sky Foundation dedicated to gender equity, Alina collaborated with New Light, a non-profit working to break the cycle of prostitution by educating and housing scores of children and aiding their mothers. While there, Alina met with young children to broaden their understanding of the potential of girls and women.
New Light identified a space for the library, books were shipped, and travel plans made, only to have the space fall through and the container get held up in customs. As in Uganda where customs proved problematic, Alina and Sheryl had to do their best with what was at hand.
They cleared a corner in one of the agency’s homes, put down a rug, installed shelves, and stocked them with 400 locally donated books in Bengali and English. Shortly after returning home, they learned the hundreds of books donated in West Seattle would soon be on the shelves, too.
Over the winter, Libraries for All became a non-profit through Visions Made Viable, an incubator for social visionaries and entrepreneurs. This alliance provides legal, fiscal, and administrative services so Alina can focus on the work itself.
Two awards recently recognized that work. In March, King County Red Cross gave Alina a Youth Spirit of Service award and, on May 3, Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson’s Why Not You Foundation honored her with its Washington Youth Leadership Award.
Next up could be a project very close to home to enhance library resources at the Mary’s Place shelter in White Center. Visit www.libraries4all.com to read more about these projects and subscribe to updates.