Amanda Lindhout, a freelance Canadian journalist who was kidnapped and held for ransom for 460 days in Somalia, will speak at a refugee fundraising event in Kelowna on Monday, June 6.
Often asked to speak at events across Canada about her experience, this will be her only appearance in B.C. this year.
She has just finished kenote speaking at several fundraising and awareness events throughout Alberta in support of the Azer family, a family of four children abducted from their mother while on holidays.
The Kelowna event is being co-organized by the Central Okanagan Refugee Committee (CORC) and the West Kelowna Initiative for Refugee Settlement (WKIRS).
Funds raised from the event will be directed to a summer ESL program, with a possibility of extension into September. While ESL programs are federally funded, but despite the increase in refugee placements throughout the Okanagan, the funding for ESL has not been increased.
As a result, there has been a huge shortage of spots for the refugees recently arrived. Family members are having to choose which parent will receive language training, with the other doing without. The ESL program is also shut down mid June for the summer months. This translates to three months of a year sponsorship without language training; critical time for a refugee to learn the language.
WKIRS, a West Kelowna Group of 5, has started an ESL program with two certified instructors. Cabella’s Hair Design has donated time and space in the upstairs office area to host the students.
Gioia Morris, one of the instructors, states: “As an immigrant to Canada who had to learn the English language upon arrival to this awesome country, I understand the absolute importance of learning first hand. ESL is one of the greatest investments of time and resources, and the people, culture, and appreciation of this country comes alive when you can speak and comprehend the language.”
Lindhout’s message is one of hope, forgiveness, and compassion. Her memoir, “A House in the Sky,” has been an international best-seller and has been on the Globe & Mail best sellers list for more than 100 weeks.
She will be sharing her story on Monday, June 6, 7 p.m., at Trinity Church in Kelowna, 1905 Springfield Rd. Tickets ($35) are available online at kelownatickets.com. Her memoir will be available for purchase and signing that evening, with proceeds also going to the support of the Okanagan refugee families.