A Canadian journalist who was kidnapped and held in Somalia for 15 months took her message to a conference of Ottawa university students Saturday.

Amanda Lindhout was a keynote speaker at Carleton University's Yes You Can Leadership Conference, and shared her story with about 200 students. Lindhout, who now runs a scholarship program for Somali women through her Global Enrichment Foundation, said the point of her talk was to get students to take action.

"Volunteer. Join an organization. Create an organization," Lindhout told the group.

"We all, every one of us here, have the power to create real sustainable change in the world no matter where we come from, no matter what baggage we have."

Lindhout was captured by gunmen while working in Somalia as a freelance journalist. A year after being freed, she said she's learned to forgive her captors for abusing her. She now hopes to give back to the African country, deemed by many as the most dangerous country in the world.

"Just beneath the pain in the heart of suffering lies the seed from which inspiration grows," said Lindhout.

The conference, organized by students, aims to halt the trend of diminishing volunteerism, organizers said.