Working with the homeless population in Philadelphia PA was a most enlightening and enriching experience for me. I met some remarkable individuals who touched my heart and taught me valuable life lessons.
I would like to tell you a little bit about one such individual, Ava*. When I met Ava, she was 64 years of age, but I guessed her to be in her mid to late eighties. Living on the streets takes an unimaginable toll on one's physical condition and appearance.
My initial assessment meetings with Ava were rough to say the least. Trust building with someone who has been burned by the system can feel quite personal, if you don't develop tough skin.
Ever so gradually, I could see this tiny giant start to soften. She began to allow me to drive her to doctor's appointments. Of course, she then treated me like royalty but was merciless to everyone else she encountered. Oh well, that was Ava!
We had many heart to heart conversations along the way. Ava had been an elementary school teacher, forced into a disability retirement in her forties due to an uncontrolled seizure disorder. She married the love of her life and had one daughter. Her world totally collapsed with the death of her husband. Sadly, and for a myriad of reasons, her relationship with her daughter had disintegrated. Ava, despite being so hardened on the exterior, would have reversed the situation in a heartbeat if she could have.
Sadly, that chance never happened as Ava died unexpectedly and peacefully in her sleep. There were many community and shelter staff in attendance at her funeral service. Ava's daughter could not be reached and was perhaps unaware of her Mom's death.
Ava reminded me of the simplicity and sincerity of a decent person. She loved to read and was always donating books to our waiting room for the other clients.
Recently I learned about a homeless shelter for women and children in Rock Hill, South Carolina...that has a beautiful bilingual library. I imagined Ava and her approving smile...
I was introduced to Jamilyn Clark Larsen, the woman behind the books, from her aunt (my pal) author, Peg Cole.
I have sent some copies of Kylie's Blossoms to add to the shelves...hoping my other friends who've written children's books will consider doing the same.
Jamilyn is grateful for any support of the her project to expand this bilingual children's book section in the Learning Center of her local homeless shelter for women & children. For her, this has become more than a MSW project for school - it is turning into an awareness of how books & reading can help bilingual families in a variety of ways!
If you are interested in buying a book, I'm sharing a link to Jamilyn's Amazon wishlist. I'd be happy to put you in touch with her to get her mailing address - if you want to do your part to spread the love of reading with some amazing young people.
CLICK HERE to visit Jamilyn's Wish List on Amazon: Jamilyn's MSW Project - Bilingual Kids Books for Women & Children's Homeless Shelter
Jamilyn's initiative has inspired me to have Kylie's Blossoms translated into a Spanish version. More about that in the weeks to come ...!!
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