I think it’s the human spirit inside of all of us that has an enormous capacity to survive.
After being in captivity for so long, I can’t begin to describe how wonderful it feels to be home in Canada.
When you see a 14-year-old boy who has never known what peace looks like for a day in his life, there’s part of you as a human being that feels some degree, you can say, compassion for the fact that these boys have known war, famine, violence and death from the day they were born.
My faith in human decency was sorely tested at times during my captivity; however, after my release, I am humbly reminded that mankind is inherently good by the tremendous efforts and support of fellow Canadians.
The road to recovery will not always be easy, but I will take it one day at a time, focusing on the moments I’ve dreamed about for so long.
I went through an extremely trying ordeal, but I never forgot the world outside was a beautiful place.
Sometimes, you have to make the choice to forgive 10 times a day when you have these pockets of anger come up. That’s a lot of work, but to me it’s worthwhile.
Going into Somalia, I didn’t anticipate how many people’s lives would be affected by it. In hindsight, I certainly wish I had taken more time to think about that, but I can’t change it.
I used my captors’ names every chance I had. It was intentional, a way of reminding them that I saw them, of pegging them, of making them see me in return.
Maintaining my dignity is so important for me.
Somalia is an important story in the world, and it needed to be told.
Many, including the Canadian and U.S. governments, try to provide family support while also maintaining a hard line about further fuelling terrorism and hostage-taking through ransom payments … Still, try telling that to a mother, or a father, or a husband or wife caught in the powerless agony of standing by.
Forgiving is not an easy thing to do.
Every day I have many choices to make about who I want to be.
It was a slow understanding that my kidnappers really are a product of their environment.
What happened to me in Somalia doesn’t define me.
I don’t think I’m unusual in that, in my 20s, like many people, I felt invincible.
The book is called ‘A House in the Sky’ because during the very, very darkest times, that was how I survived. I had to find a safe place to go in my mind where there was no violence being done to my body and where I could reflect on the life I had lived and the life that I still wanted to live.
Because travel has always been such a vital part of myself and so essential to who I am, I have made the decision to continue to put myself back out into the world. And that’s not an easy decision to make.
I know firsthand how critical support systems are.
My confidence came from the way I grew up, and I’m grateful for it.
For a while, the world for me was like a set of monkey bars. I swung from one place to the next, sometimes backward, sometimes forward, capitalizing on my own momentum, knowing that at some point my arms… would give out, and I’d fall to the ground.
I have a general sense of excitement about the future, and I don’t know what that looks like yet. But it will be whatever I make it.
Being in the dark, there’s a real weight to it. It’s heavy.
It was a slow understanding that the lack of education in a country like Somalia creates these huge social problems.
I think that I find a lot of my healing out in the world.
The same men who are placing all these outrageous restrictions on women’s freedoms in southern Somalia – that type of mentality – that’s what I had to deal with in captivity.
It’s difficult to put into words what freedom feels like. You only know what freedom feels like if you know what it feels like to not be free.
I must try desperately to absorb all information I can about the Middle East. I want to excel. I want to speak articulately about the politics of the Middle East and its religion.
I don’t only long for the thrill of being in the middle of a war, I must understand it; I must make other people understand.
I’m not afraid of IED’s, bullets, mortars.
What a woman is taught, she shares with her family.
Hamdi Ulukaya and Chobani have made the decision to feed 250,000 victims of the Somali famine. Their compassion speaks for itself, and is a shining example of how the business community can have an enormous positive impact on the world.
The greatest gift you have been given is the gift of your imagination – what do you dream of wanting to do?
With awareness come responsibility and choice.
The countries with the greatest problems have the kindest people.
You have a responsibility to move your dreams forward, no matter what.
The big-time journalists generally had kidnapping insurance through their news organizations. Usually, it would pay for a crisis response company to help negotiate for a hostage’s release. Freelancers most often had none.
After spending 460 days as a hostage, I did emerge a fundamentally changed person. But I think, like everyone does as they grow older and probably wiser, I can look back at my earlier life – my history, my mistakes, the joy I felt as a young woman traveling the world – with some objectivity and even some humor.
I made a vow to myself while I was a hostage that if I were lucky enough to live and to get out of Somalia, I would do something meaningful with my life – and specifically something that would be meaningful in the country where I’d lost my freedom.
War dehumanizes everyone.
My captors were definitely aware that what they were doing was wrong. It came out in small ways – occasionally through a show of guilt or compassion. One of the boys bought me a gift. Another used to sneak me acetaminophen tablets.
Contemplating Christmas when you are isolated and far from home brings its own unique pain.
Accompanied by an Australian photographer named Nigel Brennan, I’d gone to Somalia to work as a freelance journalist, on a trip that was meant to last only ten days.
Christmas was the one time of year when my brothers surfaced at home, when my parents and grandparents congregated to eat my mother’s roast turkey.
I would like to especially acknowledge my home community of Calgary, and the people of central Alberta who made my dream of freedom a reality.
I must thank my good friend Nigel Brennan. His strength of character in the midst of extreme hardship inspired me during the darkest days. Despite our separation, he always managed to find small ways to remind me that there are gentlemen in the world, even when I was surrounded by just the opposite.
I am so proud to be a Canadian.
Sometimes it’s nice for people not to know anything about me.
Friendships that don’t fit my life anymore have faded away, and new ones have come in.
I never felt an obligation to say every single terrible thing that happened to me.
Women in Somalia face almost unimaginable oppression.
I’m afraid of the dark, but I choose to sleep in the dark. I can fall right to sleep with the lights on. But I want to be someone who can sleep in the dark, so that’s the choice that I make.
I’m afraid of elevators, because they are an enclosed space, but I get in.
Getting on a plane is hard for me, but I do it, because travel is vital to me.
A little goes a long way in Somalia: $5 will feed a person there for about two weeks.
Somalia is very dangerous, and no one knows that better than I.
Hillary Clinton has a strong and powerful voice regarding ending violence against women and girls.
I have watched lives change. I have seen women gain confidence.