To Amanda Lindhout, for a remarkable gesture of forgiveness, generosity and compassion.
Lindhout, who was born and raised in Central Alberta, was held captive in Somalia for 15 months with Australian photographer Nigel Brennan. She and Brennan had been in Somalia for just days, reporting on conditions in the wartorn country, when they were taken hostage. She suffered abuse and torture at the hands of her captors in the 462 days she was held.
Now Lindhout, who was freed late last year, has launched a scholarship program for Somalian women. The goal is to raise enough money to send 100 Somalian women to university over the next four years. Lindhout also intends to establish her newly formed Global Enrichment Foundation as a charitable vehicle to deliver other programs in the future.
Somalian women are among the most oppressed in the world. They have few freedoms and even fewer opportunities to better themselves or escape the cultural cycle of violence and deprivation. Education is critical if the cycle is to be broken.
Lindhout sees an opportunity to make it happen. And she found the inspiration in the most trying of circumstances.
“When you are being kept in an utterly dark room, with no freedom to move because you’re in chains . . . I started thinking that if somehow I make it out, I have to do something great with my life,” she told the congregation at the First Christian Reformed Church in Red Deer on Sunday.
It is a singular testament to her character that the plight of others became a beacon in her darkest moments.
Lindhout remained strong throughout the ordeal, according to Brennan. The Australian told a newspaper in his homeland recently that “I was extremely fortunate to have Amanda, because she made me pull my head out of my ass and think positively for once in my life, which was good.”
She continues to pursue a positive perspective: Lindhout intends to leave journalism to attend university in the fall, with the goal of learning how to establish sustainable development programs in the Third World.
Her resilience, commitment and dedication to others should be a lesson to us all.
To the volunteer firefighters of Sylvan Lake and the local Canadian Red Cross volunteers who responded so quickly, efficiently and compassionately to the devastating house fires in Sylvan Lake this week.
Four families lost their homes and several other families suffered damage to their property and untold emotional trauma.
The scars, both physical and to the psyche, will not heal quickly.
But the damage could have been far worse if not for the selfless actions of these two volunteer organizations.
No community service holds as much potential for danger as volunteer firefighting.
It requires unwavering commitment, practice, education and courage. And you can’t pick the days when disaster will strike.
Fighting an inferno like the one in Sylvan Lake is not for the faint of heart, but these volunteers answered the call and kept the wind-whipped fire from spreading to other homes. The scope of the disaster in the tightly-developed neighbourhood, without their work, could have been almost unimaginable.
As firefighters were limiting the physical losses, Red Cross volunteers began the work of helping the victims, offering them solace and support. Accommodation and other basic needs were filled quickly.
Thirty thousand Canadians volunteer for the Red Cross. We are most familiar with their work outside our borders, helping others in times of natural disasters like the Haiti earthquake.
But disaster can and does strike at home.
And there are extraordinary people in our community who are always willing to reach out to those in need.
John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.