Courageous return

Amanda Lindhout has certainly conquered any fears of returning to a country where she experienced her darkest days. The former Central Alberta freelance journalist recently journeyed to Somalia which is in the grip of one of the worst famines in history.

Lindhout was held captive in Somalia for 15 months and released in late 2009. In the summer of 2008, she headed to the country while researching a story on the conditions of an internally displaced people’s camp outside Mogadishu.

On her third day there, she was kidnapped and held hostage for 460 days. She was eventually released after a ransom payment was delivered to her captors.

Now the founder and director of The Somali Women’s Scholarship Program, Lindhout has since spoken many times about the need for compassion, the triumph of personal transformation and the process of forgiveness.

Her mission is to help educate women in Somalia – one of the poorest places on earth that has also seen almost constant internal conflict for decades as well.

Her most recent return has been fueled by the famine crisis, and she has delivered thousands of dollars worth of food to the region. According to the Red Cross, a cycle of severe droughts has led to a humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa (which includes Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Uganda).

It is estimated that nearly 11 million people have been affected, many fleeing their homes and are now left with limited access to food, clean water and shelter.

Since her return to Africa, Lindhout is often asked how she could come back to a place which caused her so much pain. She responds by saying that she made a commitment to herself while in captivity that she would one day do what she could to help people trapped in such dire poverty and seemingly endless cycles of violence.

She often tries to point to the positives about the Somalian people in general as well, and seems almost hesitant to dwell on her horrendous experiences in the nation.

What strength this would take – it’s a true inspiration and virtually unimaginable to the average person that someone would move past their own trauma and give back so generously. This is her whole focus now; her life’s work.

Lindhout is far from average. Only four months after her release, she also established the Global Enrichment Foundation. From that the Somali Women’s Program was launched as a means to empower the most oppressed members of Somali society – women.

For more information on the Global Enrichment Foundation, visit www.globalenrichmentfoundation.com.

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