In 1994, as a young physician working in Somalia, Samantha Nutt saw and experienced many of the horrors that war brings to countries.
From that moment on, finding solutions to reducing the impact wars have on children has been a major driving force in Nutt’s life and work, and would lead to the founding of War Child Canada in 1998.
Today, Nutt is known across Canada and internationally for her humanitarian work, as a public speaker and as an author. Guerriers de l’impossible: L’argent, les armes et l’aide humanitaire, the French translation of her 2011 best-selling book Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies and Aid, was released last October.
Originally from Scarborough, Ont., Nutt said that it was her experiences in Somalia in 1994 that set her on her path. While she had worked internationally before, she had never experienced working in a country torn apart by war.
“What I saw and experienced in Somalia profoundly affected my worldview from that moment forward,” she said. ” I found it hard to reconcile the violence and suffering that I’d witnessed.”
Co-founded with her future husband and current Ontario Minister of Health Eric Hoskins, War Child Canada aims to stop treating aid and development as short-term fixes and instead find long-term solutions to systemic problems.
“It was very necessary to start shifting the focus from “emergency relief” to longer term strategies that invested in local communities, enhanced their capacity, stimulated local employment and helped them become more resilient, ultimately reducing both the threat of war and its impact,” she said.
As War Child Canada grew and joined with other international organizations and partners, it was able to not only provide on-the-ground support abroad, but also help sparks conversations about aid at home.
“We also wanted to encourage people here at home to think differently about aid, so that we better understand the impact that we might have, both positive and negative,” she said.
For her contributions to helping children in war-torn countries, Nutt was named a member of the Order of Canada in 2011.
While her work with War Child Canada and her speaking engagements continue to keep her occupied, Nutt also has several other projects currently in development.
She’s researching and conducting interviews for her second book on the subject of homegrown terrorism and the radicalization of young people and also working with Québec-based filmmaker Mathieu Roy on a documentary adaptation of Damned Nations.
When she reflects on her life and the work she’s done, Nutt said that sometimes it’s still difficult to believe the impact that the organization is capable of making.
“Twenty years ago, War Child was an idea,” she said. “But because of the dedication of our staff and our partners, and their courage, we now serve more than 400,000 children and their families in war zones every year.”
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