NEW PERSPECTIVE- Red Deer College is hosting guest speaker Amanda Lindhout for tonight's 'Perspectives: Canada in the World Series'. Lindhout

Lindhout discusses Somali scholarship program

Amanda Lindhout knows plenty about the power of forgiveness.

Lindhout, the former Central Alberta journalist who was held captive in Somalia for 15 months and released late last year, is speaking this evening at the College Arts Centre as part of the ‘Perspectives: Canada in the World Series’.

Her talk starts at 7:30 p.m.

Founder and director of The Somali Women’s Scholarship Program, Lindhout’s speech is entitled ‘Women in Somalia: From Adversity to Opportunity.’

The details of Lindhout’s horrendous experiences at the hands of her captors are well-known.

But she wants people to know that Somalia, which is considered the poorest country in the world, deserves attention and assistance as many innocent folks battle to eke out a living in the midst of such scarcity.

“There were transformative moments that I experienced while I was in captivity,” she says during an interview from St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia where she’s studying developmental leadership.

For one thing, she learned about the power of choices.

“When I came home, I could have chosen to regress and forget about Somalia,” she explains. “Or, I could take steps towards helping make Somalia a better place in whatever way I could do that.”

She’s also learned about the impact of forgiveness, having chosen to forgive her captors. She acknowledges it’s a process, and remains a daily decision that she has to make.

“It’s a really important theme in every talk that I do, and it’s a also a very relevant topic in the world today as well,” she adds. “Everyday I wake up I make the decision to forgive. Everyday is different, but I’m committed to the process – I have to be.

“Anger and bitterness will destroy you unless you find a way to heal it.”

The benefits are indeed priceless. “It feels really good, and there are moments when I feel really free.”

Through her travels as a freelance journalist over the years, she garnered an enormous understanding of the consequences of war, famine, violence and oppression.

In the summer of 2008, she headed to Somalia while researching a story on the conditions of an internally displaced people’s camp outside the 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.

Only four months after her release, she established the Somali Women’s Program as a means to empower the most oppressed members of Somali society – women.

Already there is much to celebrate. This past September, the first 11 recipients started university.

“September was a really exciting month,” she recalls, pointing out that the scholarship program’s benefits extend through to after the women graduate from their programs. Micro-financing is available, for example, to help them establish small businesses.

“I am so inspired by the resilience of the people of Somalia. It’s a country full of beautiful and resilient people.”

Lindhout believes that educational and economic opportunities are absolutely key to helping those in Somalia carve out a brighter future.

“When people hear the word ‘Somalia’, they think ‘failed state’,” she says. “But as long as those people have hope, it hasn’t failed. It’s a very desperate place, but the change will come.”

Tickets for Lindhout’s talk are $35, and are available at the door or by Ticketmaster by calling 403-340-4455.

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