GIVING BACK – ‘Rajo’ means hope in Somali. At the Rajo Women's Literacy School

Amanda Lindhout looks ahead to new experiences

A House in the Sky book tour continues in Europe as New Year unfolds

  • Dec. 27, 2013 3:57 p.m.

A former Red Deerian continues to spread her message about the power of forgiveness and her recently-launched autobiographical book continues to touch Central Albertans as well.

Amanda Lindhout, 32, who released A House in the Sky with co-author Sara Corbett, this past fall, has seen much success this year.

Her book, which details accounts of torture, despair and ultimate survival in the 15-months she spent in captivity in Somalia after being kidnapped in 2008, has been on the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Maclean’s and the New York Times’ bestseller list. It was also included in The Globe and Mail’s 100 Best Books of 2013, The Quill and Quire’s 2013 Books of the Year and was one of New York Times’ Notable Books of 2013.

“The day I found out we had made the New York Times’ bestseller list I just cried. After working on this book for three and a half years – to see it out in the world and doing well and for people to be responding so well to it, it’s a feeling of accomplishment. It was very hard work to write this book,” she said, during a recent chat from her home in Canmore.

Lindhout has recently been on a book tour, talking with thousands of people and sharing her story, not only of what happened in Somalia, but of her choice to forgive her captors and to help better the lives of Somalians via the Global Enrichment Foundation which she founded in 2010.

“When you are tested and it’s life and death you just find the strength you wouldn’t have otherwise known you have. I had to go there and find that,” she said. “I think that there are threads in my story that remind people of that strength.”

She added sharing her story is not always an easy thing to do.

“I believe that we learn from each other’s stories and mine is a story of survival so if what I went through can be made purposeful for others through the sharing of it, then at this point in my life I am willing to do that,” said Lindhout, adding that she now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. “In preparation of the book coming out, 2013 has been a difficult year for me emotionally – I’m revealing myself and difficult elements that I went through to the public.”

Lindhout said since the launch of her book, her life has changed and in some ways the changes have been hard to adjust to.

“It’s a really strange experience for me to move throughout Canada and be recognized regularly. I’m from Central Alberta, so when I come home to Red Deer or I’m here (in Canmore), sure people will go ‘oh you’re Amanda’, but now with the book people recognize me and want to talk to me about my story. There has been an element of having the book come out that has been very challenging too – like at all times I’m expected to talk about my story.

“But I also want to say I am totally celebrating the success of the book. I wouldn’t want to have it any other way – it’s just something strange to get used to,” she said. “But the kinds of opportunities that I have been given this year because of the book like to be on the pages of Vogue magazine in their September issue – I am a girl from Red Deer, Alberta and to live a dream like that was incredible. There are moments that I just think how lucky I am.”

Moving forward, in January A House in the Sky will be released in several European countries and Lindhout will be heading there to continue her book tour.

“I anticipate with all things book-related I’ll be on some sort of tour until next fall.”

She then plans to enroll in post-secondary schooling, although she is unsure yet of what she will study.

Meanwhile, as for the Global Enrichment Foundation, whose mission is to cultivate leadership to build safer and stronger communities by providing women and girls with opportunities to empower themselves through education, training and economic capacity building – paving the way for all individuals to be agents of change and effective advocates for themselves, their family and their community, there will be a change in how it operates in 2014.

Since it was founded the GEF has helped to fund primary education, provide university scholarships, run a literacy school for Somali refugees, provide counseling, education and business opportunities as well as sponsor all-girls teams to cultivate leadership through sport, fund school-based food programs and provide emergency food aid to communities in crisis, among others, all in Somalia.

Two years ago, Lindhout met Dr. Hawa Abdi, Somalia’s first female gynecologist, in Kenya. Abdi was the woman Lindhout was planning on interviewing before she was abducted in 2008.

Abdi runs an internally-displaced people’s camp of nearly 100,000 people in Somalia.

“The Global Enrichment Foundation has begun to support most of the infrastructure within her internally-displaced people’s camp,” said Lindhout. “We have funded the reconstruction of the only primary school in that camp in which we have 850 kids in school.

“We’ve built this partnership with Dr. Hawa Abdi and my long-term vision of the Foundation has changed through this partnership. What we endeavor to do in 2014 is the GEF will become the Global Enrichment Fund and the Fund will be in support of the Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation. What it means is there is less administration for us and we can continue to do everything we are doing and she will put our programs under her umbrella and we can continue those.”

The GEF has also recently launched ‘The Reading to Leading Campaign’. The goal is to raise $1 million to empower and educate women in Somalia.

“It was important to me to bring meaning to what happened to me and that is what, on a personal level, the Global Enrichment Foundation has been. I talk a lot about forgiveness and compassion and that is what the Foundation is for me – to choose not to hate, to choose compassion for that country, coupled with the passion I felt for this work and to support positive change in that country,” said Lindhout. “We have plans and dreams and hundreds of thousands of people have been reached – it’s been very gratifying for me.”

efawcett@reddeerexpress.com

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