One year ago, Amanda Lindhout was released by her kidnappers.
In August, 2008, Amanda, a Canadian reporter traveling through Somalia with her friend, Australian photographer Nigel Brennan, were heading to report on a displaced persons camp near Mogadishu.
They never made it.
They were waylaid, with their handlers, and held captive for the next 15 months. The three Somali men were released after several months, but Nigel and Amanda remained hostages, mistreated and manipulated for the monetary gain of their captors.
But you can read all about that here.
However, another very important part of this story has transpired over the last year...
The incredible path of forgiveness and positivity Amanda has taken since her release, one short year ago, is nothing short of inspiratonal.
Instead of simply retreating into the quiet safety of a supportive family, Amanda has instead drawn on this strength and love and chosen to create change within in the very environment that produced her captors. She claims that the seed of this idea was planted during her captivity, in realizing that these "boys", as they were but teenagers despite their brutality, were a direct product of their violent society, and while she does not forgive them their choices, she recognized how they became the brutalizers she experienced.
Believing that when you educate the women in a community, you will achieve a stronger, safer, healthier community, Amanda has undertaken an admirable step towards forgiveness and growth in helping the Somali women who live daily within the confines of this restrictive environment.
And this is exactly what she is working towards through her Somali Women's Scholarship Program, under the umbrella of the Global Enrichment Foundation. Amanda has taken her experience and is creating hope and positive opportunity where there was previously very little.
This past summer saw the Somali Women's Scholarship Program select 11 women, giving them the chance to attend university and follow their dreams and paths of change. Women in different villages were contacted and asked to write essays about their future Somalia. From these applicants the first group of women were chosen, sponsored by individuals, like me.
I am the proud sponsor of K. she is a young woman who intends to become a nurse.
This is what K writes;
"My country Somalia is in a critical situation, where every day many people die due to the war. My vision is to work in a hospital as a surgical nurse and to save the lives of those injured in the senseless street battles. Many of our nurses have left their posts and fled the country. We need people who are trained to save lives. The future of somalia depends on the ability and the power of educated people to make improvements. I will teach and give seminars when I am a nurse so that women have an opportunity to know about health issues. I have an interest to also work with NGO's who have programs addressing women's health. I feel so blessed that I will be in a position to devote my skills to help my people."
To maintain her privacy and safety, there is no photo of K to be shared here.
This is a risky endeavour for most of these women. The society there is not open like here. Or in the States. Or like many of the places we have the privelege of knowing. This is why it is so important that projects like Amanda's exist.
"you can change a life, a community, a country...by helping to educate a woman"
I will likely never travel to Somalia, or meet K...but I feel a responsibility as a woman to encourage her desire to create change in her country. I am thrilled to be a part of this project. For a not so big amount of money, a woman is receiving a university education, living expenses and a small allowance for her family, who remain in their village. The goal of The Somali Women's Program is to enroll 100 women into university within the next 4 years, with the next 25 scholarships being awarded for 2011.
This is pretty heady stuff.
Something we take for granted, and more often than not ever recognize the value of, is going to change these women's lives forever...and that ripple effect will create monumental changes in the villages and cities these women put their talents and skills to use in.
Anyone who knows me, knows how passionate I am about girls and education here, in Canada, and in our own life. I was educated in an all girl's school, by women, and was taught from day one that girls have special powers;). I think that the idea of change coming from the inherent strengths that women have is a very smart way to go in any society. I am not downplaying the roles boys and men play, not at all. I have two sons and a well educated husband. But women shape the world in a different way, and if a society is broken...then let us look to the strengths that lie untapped...and in this case, it is the women.
And Amanda...I doubt you will read this, but if you do...I am so glad you are home.
I followed your story from the beginning, held my breathe for months waiting to hear good news. I imagine there were many, many, many people doing the same.
There have been many criticisms about many things, from being in over your head to how the Canadian government handled things, but ultimately I hope that the sense of adventure you had before your time in captivity, the bravery you showed during and the strength of character and determination you have showed since your release help you towards living a healthy life of fulfillment and contentment.
You are an inspiration.
Last year, on the night of Amanda's release, I toasted her with a glass of wine, while watching her on CTV news:)
It is a happy thing that I toast her again tonight for all she has achieved since:).
(the photo is from that night last year...no brace this year;))
Now, I am not expecting everyone to run out and donate to this program. But...I just want you to be aware that it exists. And that good has come from bad. And that even in darkest times, there is the possibility of hope.
But...if you are interested in donating...here is the way to do it:)