After Amanda Lindhout emerged from 460 days of captivity in Somalia, she looked in a mirror and barely recognized herself. She was emaciated, with teeth broken and missing, her head covered in bald patches from malnutrition.
For a few days after her release on Nov. 25, 2009, Lindhout said she gave herself the “luxury” of feeling sorry for herself.
She briefly also tried anger “on for size,” she told a sellout crowd of 525 at the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast at Westerner Park on Wednesday.
But Lindhout, 29, chose forgiveness and used the freedom she no longer takes for granted to help the women of Somalia by creating The Global Enrichment Foundation.
“I really feel that the messages of forgiveness and compassion are essential today in the world. We see everything that’s going on. If we could cultivate that in ourselves, the whole world could be a different place,” said the former Sylvan Lake resident after her speech.
“Life is all about choices. I choose every day to engage in the process of forgiveness. I chose when I came home to not spend too long in self-pity, to move through that. It’s not always easy to make that choice, but it was a choice I knew I had to make.”
When the conversation turns to her foundation, Lindhout brims with enthusiasm.
Begun just under a year ago, the scholarship program for Somalian women has already helped 11 go to university and 25 more women are going this fall, with more than $100,000 raised so far.
In May, a micro-finance program will be launched in the Dabaab refugee camp in northern Kenya. The She Will program will provide small business loans to female Somalian refugees.
“These small business loans — $25 to $250 — are just going to change the lives of about 2,000 women,” said Lindhout, who is travelling to Kenya in May to set up the program.
She also plans to do some research to see if an office for the foundation can be set up this fall in Nairobi, Kenya.
Her goal is to continue to expand the foundation every year.
“I would love to see The Global Enrichment Foundation in 10 years operating in a dozen countries around the world,” she said.
A first annual walk and run has already been organized for Aug. 20 in Canmore. Proceeds from the Stride for Power will go to the women of Somalia.
“It’s just going to be a really amazing and empowering day for women,” she said.
Meanwhile, Lindhout, who now lives in Canmore, is planning to continue her university studies at the University of Calgary this fall.
She plans to study international conflict resolution, which will be useful as she continues with various initiatives through her foundation.
For information on the foundation, go to www.globalenrichmentfoundation.com.