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Lina Osho-Williams is the Youth and Family Services Manager for HPL. She holds a Masters in Early Childhood Ed. and received a MS from Simmons College (Library and Information Science) this past year.

Tell me about your journey to the United States.

I was born in Sierra Leone. I left my country in 1997, during a brutal civil war. Along with my 3 year-old daughter, Olayinka, my mother, my brother and my cousin, we boarded a boat to Gambia with no idea of what to expect. .

The journey by boat was a nightmare. No clean drinking water. The boat was overloaded and there was a terrible storm at sea. My daughter Olayinka was so dehydrated I was petrified if she stayed on the boat one more day, she would have died. When we arrived in Gambia, the boat was met by the Red Cross. The experience was so horrifying that I have not been on a boat since.

Gambia is the home country of my father and we settled there for a few years. Being multilingual, I was able to teach for the 2 years we lived there. In 1999, we came to the states, sponsored by the Interfaith Refugee Ministry; Interfaith found a sponsor for us in Hartford – the Warburton Congregational Community Church.

You have a college degree in English and Sociology from Sierra Leone and your first job was at TJ Maxx.

I didn’t know the currency and I was doing a cashier’s job! But I caught on quick!

And you moved on quickly.

I began teaching preschool through a position in the Early Childhood Education Dept. with the Community Renewal Team. It was through this position I met the HPL Children and Families Director Debra Perry. I started at the Blue Hills Branch and moved to the Downtown Library two years later.

How has working at the Library shaped you?

I have evolved (since coming to the library), I’ve grown in what I do. I know people had doubts, they didn’t know me, I sensed that. But I did the work, I grew. I owe so much to my mentor Debra, she led me through!

Tell me what you love about working at the Library.

I love working with families. For me, being a refugee, coming from another country, I understand where they are coming from and can connect immediately. I’ve been there, I understand.

My passion is with teaching the little ones. There is something just precious about working with the little ones. I love the continuum – working with them as small children and then seeing them grow and come back as adults, seeing their beautiful potential being realized.

Talk about beautiful potential – you and your family have what you describe as the “American Dream”

10 years ago, we bought our first home in Manchester. My 3-year-old daughter Olayinka I was so scared I was going to lose on that awful boat ride? She now holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications and works for Hartford Healthcare. And our son, Olatunji will be attending Northwestern University to work on a degree in Journalism.

Working with the little ones, you’ve got to have a favorite book to read out loud

Elephant and Piggie is a book series for early readers by Mo Willems. I love the illustrations, the positive message, and especially the rapport and friendship of the two main characters

Mo Willems says “One of the ways you grow is by starting over” All of us at the Library are so grateful to Lina and her bravery to start over in the United States.

We are all richer because of her presence in our lives.

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