Oct 21, 2015 Celebrity Walk & Breakfast
Suffering some of the darkest days in her life in Somalia, a woman from Alberta was able to find a "tiny seed of compassion" and wants people to learn from her ordeal.
Amanda Lindhout detailed her August 2008 kidnapping by teenage insurgents, which is part of her book A House in the Sky: A Memoir, a New York Times bestseller in 2013.
She was the guest speaker Oct. 21, 2015 at the Children's Treatment Centre Celebrity Walk & Breakfast at the Cornwall Civic Complex - the organization's biggest annual fundraiser.
The adventurous traveller had went to Somalia with another journalist. She had become intrigued by the region while working in Baghdad for a television station as a freelance journalist. Both were captured after their convoy was stopped by a group of teenage insurgents.
During her time held captive - which included an unsuccessful escape - she was repeatedly sexually abused by a teenage boy, Abdullah. Lindhout said there was a point where she faced an "internal snap" and used all her energy to ward off this sense.
But when that "internal snap" happened, she told the audience it was like the whole world stood still.
"I experienced it as an actual physical sensation of something opening up in my chest," she said, "and for that split second, I understood with absolute clarity that this person who was creating so much suffering for me could also truly (be) suffering himself."
Lindhout believed her sexual abuser had "layers of pain (that) covered his conscience" and drove him to make someone suffer more than he did.
She said that "tiny seed of compassion" didn't go away and she relied on it until she was freed in November 2009. She and Australian journalist Nigel Brennan were held captive for 460 days.
Their families, with the help of the community, were able to come up with the $3 million ransom.
Back in Alberta after her ordeal, Lindhout said she had to make "real choices" after a couple months whether to be "in a bitter depressed state" or to hold on to the gratitude and compassion that kept her alive.
"I made a promise to myself that if I got out of there (Somalia), I would do something to contribute to some positive change and development, like the country of Somalia."
Since that time six years ago, Lindhout has established a non-profit organization, the Global Enrichment Foundation, to help roughly 200,000 people in Somalia. The organization has raised over $3 million in the last five-and-half years.
She also worked to help bring food to people in Somalia during the famine crisis.
"Every morning before I get out of bed, I made the choice to forgive," Lindhout said. "Suffering of any kind, it often causes us to awaken and want to make meaning out of our lives somehow."
The Children's Treatment Centre raised $226,200 last year and it hopes to meet or exceed that goal this year.
In its 19 years of service, the center has treated 2,340 children for emotional, physical and sexual abuse and has never received a complaint, said Children's Treatment Centre chairman Don Fairweather.