Amanda Lindhout set out as a freelance journalist to tell the stories of those living in hostile countries, such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.
Despite becoming a story herself during and following her 15-months in captivity at the hands of child soldiers, Lindhout remains committed to her original plan.
“When I was working as a journalist, it was very important for me to tell the untold stories and to try to highlight the issues that were important to me. And that remains the same,” the humanitarian said before speaking at Red Deer College’s Perspectives Canada in the World Series.
“And now I have this unique platform that people are interested in what I have to say about Somalia.
“So I would have to be very selfish not to use this platform to create awareness about the conditions that women in Somalia face.”
On Wednesday, Lindhout shared the story of this hardship with the community in which she was raised.
And while she talked of the physical abuse and mental torment she endured for 460 days as a hostage, Lindhout largely wanted to share her message of forgiveness and hope for the wartorn African country.
On May 13, Lindhout launched the Somali Women’s Scholarship Program with the belief that educating women will lead to positive change for the country.
Donors from across the country have contributed more than $100,000 to the fund.
She told the audience of about 400 that more than 1,600 applications were received and the program awarded 11 young Somali women each with a $1,000 scholarship that covers post secondary tuition and living expenses in July. They started school in September.
Applicants were asked to describe their greatest vision for the future of Somalia and how, with a university education, they intend to help create such a sate.
Lindhout shared a glimpse into the stories these girls aspire to make a reality.
One wrote of her dream to become an environmentalist while another wants to become a business consultant aiding female entrepreneurs.
One is striving to work as a public administrator with the future Somalia government while the other wants to help young citizens as a youth councillor.
Lindhout said the program will introduce 25 more scholarships in 2011 and will continue increasing the number over the next four years until she reachers her goal of helping 100 Somalia women pursue an university education.
“I think it’s very brave of her,” said audience member Janice Findlay. “I can’t believe that she’s doing so much so soon.”
“What she’s trying to do now seems like a worthy cause,” agreed John Bontje. “She must be a really strong person to do that.”
Lindhout did admit that she’s struggling with remembering some of those dark moments in captivity as Nov. 25 nears — the first anniversary of her release from captivity.
“Most of the time I feel really good,” she said before giving her presentation. “But as I’m approaching the one year anniversary, I find that it’s a time of reflection so I’m thinking more about my experience in captivity maybe than I have been for the last 10 months or so. With that, a lot of emotions come back again and I’m revisiting some of those emotions.
“The process of forgiveness, it’s not easy. When I wake up in the morning, there’s days that I don’t want to engage in it. But I know that I have to because if I don’t, then I’ll never be free.”