Community & Current Events

The woman behind War Child Canada

By: Elizabeth Zahur

Photography by Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography by

Community & Current Events

The woman behind War Child Canada

By: Elizabeth Zahur
Dr. Samantha Nutt has dedicated the past 10 years of her life to helping war-affected children by working to reduce poverty, promote education and advance child rights. As the cofounder and chief executive director of War Child Canada, she spends her time visiting and providing oversight to field programs in war-torn countries and regions (she was in Darfur earlier this year), writing about the issues, liaising with donors and speaking with audiences across the country.

Taking time out of her hectic schedule, Nutt talked to about how the organization has grown, what she hopes to see in the future and how motherhood has inspired her work.

War Child Canada is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. What are your thoughts as you look back?
On one hand we're proud that we've grown so much. We've grown from a cellphone, a backpack and a volunteer staff of one to an organization that has 17 staff at the Toronto headquarters, eight staff working internationally and more than 150 local employees in the countries we are working in.  We're working in eight wartime countries, helping more than 250,000 kids every year, and have generated more than $20 million for war-affected children. But at the same time there have been 31 major conflicts. So it's with mixed emotions that I look back on the past 10 years - at the successes, but also, from an international point of view, the huge failures.

What are the most pressing issues globally?
The amount of money spent on war is extremely concerning. The ease of availability of weaponry on a global level is contributing to instability in many corners of the world. The lack of accountability around that is very concerning. Climate change and resource pressures are also contributing to the violence and instability. Terrorism and extremism in all of its forms is a threat to peace and security. Nuclear proliferation is a huge concern. There are many pressures that can easily destabilize everything we take for granted.

What can the average Canadian do to help?
We have a tendency to give once and then think we've done our part. What people often don't realize is that it's better to give a smaller amount of money but on a regular basis, that way organizations can actually plan. We are also one of Aeroplan's charitable partners, so people can donate their miles, which helps us do our international work without an addition expense.

Page 1 of 2 -- Discover how Dr. Samantha Nutt finds balance in her busy life on page 2.
Was there a moment when you realized you wanted to dedicate your life to helping others?
My defining experience was when I was working as a volunteer with UNICEF in Somalia in the mid-1990s. I had worked in development before, but I had never experienced war. It's such a profound shock to see how fragile life is in those situations and how little regard there is outside of those countries for what people are actually going through. I just thought there has to be a better way to make a meaningful difference.
You have a young son, and your husband, Dr. Eric Hoskins, is an MPP for the St. Paul's riding in Toronto. How do you find the time and energy to juggle it all?
I'm a high-energy person. I don't even pretend to have balance in my life. That's just the way that I am. Obviously my son and my husband are extremely important, and we always make sure we have our quality time together. And I love what I do. For me there's not really a distinction between my work and my passion.

Has motherhood changed how you approach your work?
I don't take things for granted anymore. More than anything, it makes these issues even more important to me because I don't want my son to inherit a world of suffering and strife and insecurities. I hope when he is my age he's not worrying about terrorist attacks or other kinds of pressures we worry about. I think it gives me a heightened sense of purpose.

Is it important to you that he is aware of what you do and of world issues?
Yes, he's four and a half, and he knows that Mummy works at War Child. He's a little boy, so he's picking things up and pretending to shoot. My husband and I are always having conversations with him about what that means and how we have spent our professional lives making sure people are not shooting one another.

Where do you see War Child going in the next 10 years?
We want to expand our programming, which means increasing our overall revenues. We're focusing on our areas of expertise, so our work in the area of child rights, child access to justice, livelihoods and poverty reduction initiatives. We also do work in the area of education. I'd like to continue to put out messages that are provocative and thought provoking so that people might think a little differently. As long as we're doing that, I will be happy.

Page 2 of 2 -- On page 1, learn more about War Child Canada helps children in war-torn countries.
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Community & Current Events

The woman behind War Child Canada