Lindhout prepares for ‘Christmas Convoy’ as famine continues

Activist hard at work in Somalia and Kenya via her Foundation

Former journalist turned humanitarian and writer Amanda Lindhout is still working to raise awareness of the plight of the famine-stricken Somali people.

Lindhout, formerly of Central Alberta, launched the first distribution of emergency food aid into Somalia via her organization the Global Enrichment Foundation (GEF) this past summer. Since then, she has helped raised $1.5 million and with that amount the GEF will feed over 300,000 people.

As folks celebrate Christmas, Lindhout is putting out the call to Canadians to support those in need as a ‘Christmas Convoy’ rolls out Dec. 24-26. The Christmas Convoy For Hope will feed 25,000 people in Somalia over those two days.

“Since the declaration of the famine we have fed nearly 80,000 people in Somalia, supplying them with food aid to last two weeks, the average time it takes for a Somali person to walk to a refugee camp where they will then have access to UN food rations.”

As Lindhout points out, a donation of $5 will feed a person for two weeks and likely save a life.

Through her travels as a journalist, Lindhout garnered an enormous understanding of the consequences of famine, violence and oppression. In 2008, while in Somalia she was kidnapped and held hostage for 460 days. She was eventually released after a ransom payment was delivered to her captors.

Even after such an experience, her heart has still been drawn to helping the people of Somalia – all the more when famine struck this year.

“When I heard that the UN expected 750,000 Somali people to die from famine by the end of 2011, as the executive director of an organization dedicated to supporting the Somali people, I knew we had to act.

“What I saw in the Dadaab refugee camp, the tens of thousands of Somalis who had fled their beloved homeland in search of food was heartbreaking. Starving mothers and their nearly dead children left an impression on my heart that will always remain.

“And while many of the largest international aid organizations were delayed in their response to the emergency by the complicated political environment in Somalia and the powerful terrorist groups who control much of the country, I decided to lead my organization to action.”

In 10 days she organized the Convoy of Hope. The first food distribution truck crossed the border into Somalia with Lindhout and a team from Nairobi. Food baskets were handed out to more than 14,000 people.

“During that first trip and the following two, I was devastated to see the toll that the famine has taken on the children of Somalia. In the camps I saw children struggling to take their final breaths, dying from hunger. How does one reconcile that with the abundance that we have in the west?

“In 2008, the year I was kidnapped in Somalia’s capital city Mogadishu, I was struck by the tremendous hope that the Somali people have for the future of their country, their noble dignity and resilience. Though the war has gotten even worse in the last few years, when I went back for the first time since captivity this summer, I was witness to the same faith and hope.

“The poverty Somali people face and the struggles they encounter each day, if we choose to look closely at it, force us in the west to put our own lives into perspective and many of us are not willing or ready to do that.”

Through it all, Lindhout has truly found her calling.

“The last year and half have been the busiest of my entire life – creating development programs to advocacy and fundraising,” she explains. “The work of the GEF is my life’s purpose.

“It is a great gift to wake up each morning and know exactly why I was born and what I am here to do. I am driven by the vision of a peaceful Somalia, and it is something I have dedicated my life to.”

She said the intensity and the severity of the famine is on her mind every second of each day. And she’s thankful for whatever folks here at home can do to help.

“We have raised an astounding $1.5 million for famine relief since August, which will feed well over 300,000 people in Somalia,” she said.

“I will not stop until the famine is over. I do this for the children, the tiny victims who cannot help themselves. As one of the most tragic famines to ever touch our world occurs, we all have to ask ourselves, what can I do? What should I do?”

Donations to the Convoy For Hope are tax creditable.

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