Live-in for literacy 

By Karen Herland

If you teach a man to fish, he'll eat forever. If you give a community a library, the possibilities are limitless.

Neeka Fedyshyn and Sharone Daniel pose in front of the tent in the Webster Library that was home for 10 days. Magnifying glass

Neeka Fedyshyn and Sharone Daniel pose in front of the tent in the Webster Library that was home for 10 days.

That's the philosophy behind Room to Read's commitment to build libraries in communities with high illiteracy rates. And it's the reason that Neeka Fedyshyn and Sharone Daniel decided to pack up their pyjamas, laptops and school books and move into a tent in the Webster Library from Jan. 16 to 25.

The two students were committed to supporting this year's campaign to build nine libraries in India, a country where 35% of the world’s illiterate population lives. This is the first year Concordia has participated in the campaign, which began at Queen's university in 2006. Since then, the campaign has steadily grown. This year's target is $40 000.

Gerald Beasley, head of Libraries, was thrilled that they could be involved in the project. "The library staff has really rallied around Neeka and Sharone." He added that Security, the Dean of Students Office, and Health and Safety have all helped to facilitate the process. "They have so much stamina and commitment, spending days in the library is not something I've ever wanted to do."

Fedyshyn, a classics major, has been touched by the support the pair received, gesturing to the containers of food and coffee community members provided. "Room service is great. This experience has really changed my view of the university and the people who go here." Daniel was also impressed, "people were coming by every day. Some even began promoting the project themselves.”

Both students independently saw ads about the program on Facebook. Fedyshyn was immediately interested. The more she read about the group's philosophy, the more she wanted to get involved. "This is something I've always cared about, my parents are both focused on it," Fedyshyn said, recalling her mother's makeshift alphabet flashcards on the backs of scrap paper.

She is impressed by the way the program works with local communities, providing re-sources and support, but not taking the project over. "They buy the library books from local publishers. The material is not just culturally and linguistically appropriate, it's also supporting the local economy."

Neither student was prepared for the media frenzy. "I thought maybe The Link would come by, but we were interviewed by Radio Canada International," said Daniel.

Although the human relations and religion major is graduating this year, she thinks the publicity will help gain sponsors for next year's effort.

Besides donated food, the two had the support of Le Gym for showers. Overall, Fedyshyn didn't mind camping out, but she did miss her cat.

In the end, the two managed to raise $1 300 with more coming in."It's the perfect expression of global connectedness," said Beasley.

To get involved, email


Concordia University