Amanda Seyfried: “Listening is more important than doing, especially when it comes to development practices”

Amanda Seyfried: The more I understand and focus my energy on learning about things I haven’t been exposed to the more I feel I am responsible to help change them. I think it’s hard for a lot of people to wrap their heads around what’s happening in vastly different circumstances than their own specifically in […]

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Amanda Seyfried: The more I understand and focus my energy on learning about things I haven’t been exposed to the more I feel I am responsible to help change them. I think it’s hard for a lot of people to wrap their heads around what’s happening in vastly different circumstances than their own specifically in communities hard hit by war and refugee camps. We DO have the ability to make an impact even from afar. It starts with knowledge and goes from there. This is exactly Where I want to put my efforts.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Samantha Nutt, Thomas Sadoski, and Amanda Seyfried.

Dr. Samantha Nutt is an award-winning humanitarian, bestselling author, and the Founder and President of War Child Canada and War Child USA. For over two decades, she has worked with children and their families at the frontline of many of the world’s major crises — from Iraq to Afghanistan, Somalia to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sierra Leone to Darfur, Sudan.

Dr. Nutt is a highly sought-after public speaker in North America and a leading authority on health, current affairs, conflict, international aid, and foreign policy. She is a recipient of the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honor, and her international work has benefitted millions of war-affected children globally.

Thomas Sadoski is a stage, film, and television actor. He is best known for his roles as Don Keefer in the HBO series The Newsroom and as Matt Short in the sitcom television series Life in Pieces. He is married to Actress Amanda Seyfried.

Amanda Seyfried is an actress, singer, and model. Amanda ventured into acting when she was 15 with recurring roles on the CBS soap opera As the World Turns (1999–2001) and the ABC soap All My Children (2003). She gained prominence following her feature film debut in the teen comedy Mean Girls (2004) and her recurring role as Lilly Kane on the UPN television series Veronica Mars (2004–2006). Amanda went to gain leading roles in a number of successful films, starring in the musical feature film Mamma Mia! (2008) the musical Les Misérables (2012), and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018).

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific organization?

Thomas Sadoski: I sat on the Board of Directors of Refugees International, a wonderful organization, and one of my favorite colleagues, Dara McLeod, moved over to working with War Child. A few weeks after she started she called me up and said: “You HAVE to meet these people”. I don’t argue with Dara, nobody with a lick of sense does, so Amanda and I had dinner in New York with Sam and Barbara Harmer. By the time we had finished the appetizers, I was utterly inspired and by the end of dinner, I had to sadly inform Sam and Barb that they were stuck with me.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began working with War Child?

Dr. Samantha Nutt: We hear incredible stories every day of children and women whose lives have been transformed because of the opportunities they have been able to access. Opportunities like getting an education, having the ability to earn an income, and having their rights upheld.

There are children in our programs who have been displaced by war for years; witnessed extreme violence and abuse, have been forced to fight, were held against their will, but have learned they can register as refugees for War Child’s accelerated learning program — where they can catch up on multiple years of education and integrate back into the school system — and they are graduating and going on to higher education. When kids who once had a hard time making eye contact and who felt hopeless and helpless, within a year, are sounding off on their plans to be doctors, or lawyers, or teachers, you are reminded of how important the work is. These opportunities are all being driven too by local staff — our programs invest in local capacity and are led by people from the community and from the region. Their courage, conviction, and tenacity are why we exist.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

Thomas: Sadoski: There is no more significant social impact that you can make than liberating children from chaos and opening a free path to a life of choices. This organization is a freedom movement, a deliverance of the future as much as it is a salvation of the present.

Amanda Seyfried: I also think it’s hard to find an organization made up of so many people on the ground with as much awareness and understanding of specifically what is needed in each of these areas. It’s a powerful and necessary piece of why War Child has such a heavy impact.

Dr. Samantha Nutt: I think this is covered above and Tommy captures it so beautifully as well. Beyond this, we exist to challenge international complacency when it comes to war and our rising militarism. There are alternatives to armed conflict and violence. Education, justice, the political and economic empowerment of women — these are all stabilizing forces in the communities in which we operate. That’s the social impact. But it also means reconsidering what we mean, as a global society, when we talk about “humanitarian aid”. We have to go beyond traditional notions of short term, emergency needs and measures (food, water, shelter, blankets) and think about the complexities of aid — of the structural inequalities that often connect to poverty and violence — and invest in community-led solutions that ultimately reduce the need for aid. For too long, humanitarian organizations and their funders have prioritized the short-term questions over the long term answers. To me, having a significant social impact also means confronting our assumptions about aid — about what works and what is needed — and our programs offer proof of that concept.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Thomas Sadoski: I’ll speak to our communities here in the west and say this:

1) Remember that no one chooses to be a refugee. No one. Refugee status is thrust upon people in the most horrible ways. These are families and people who want to be in their home but cannot because their lives are literally at risk if they stay.

2) The stories of the people War Child exists to help are often heartbreaking, unsettling, and upsetting. And you must not turn away, you must not avoid them. These stories must be heard; they deserve to be heard. Make space, as unpleasant as it will be.

3) Giving is more than a monetary act. Too often we forget that giving of our time by listening to these stories is a gift, giving of your voice by telling your family, your colleagues, your community about War Child, its mission, and its purpose is a gift. Do not surrender innocent people to suffering in anonymity because you may not have the financial wherewithal to give right now. Fight for them with what you have; it will save lives.

Sam: I totally agree.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Dr. Samantha Nutt: To me it means:

Being open and collaborative, and to drive decisions from a place of information rather than assumption. To have a vision, but one that unifies rather than divides. Leadership also requires a sense of adventure (and humor) — an inclination towards expanded possibilities, rather than prescriptions (i.e. to do what others are not doing). But I also think all leaders need to be thoughtful and to model honesty and integrity because, without trust, people will not invest in you or your organization. There’s a point at which being bold, though, can lead to ruthlessness or a critical lack of empathy and consideration — sadly, many political leaders in recent years have modeled that behavior. But real leaders inspire and don’t need to threaten, coerce or intimidate — they simply need to offer a compelling alternative that represents the best version of ourselves, even in our hardest moments.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Dr. Samantha Nutt: 1. “Listening is more important than doing, especially when it comes to development practices”. When I first started out, as a doctor, I thought my skills and training were enough. That I could jump right in there and had the answers. I didn’t. Knowing what the real issues are, understanding the circumstances of people’s lives, all of these are essential to achieving different outcomes. Too many aid programs are being driven by the assumption of outsiders, rather than the knowledge of those living within these crises every day. Our role is to support their efforts, not the other way around.

2. “When you find yourself at the side of the road, in the middle of a war zone, wearing only a white bikini and gripped by the sudden onset of dysentery, you will regret some of the choices you made in life and for good reason”. (I think that example pretty much explains itself).

3. “There will be times when your life will be threatened and you will feel breathlessly afraid. You won’t think you are brave, but you are. You will want to quit but don’t, because better days lie ahead”. (I have been in car ambushes over the years, and I have been trapped amid heavy gunfire, I have been threatened with sexual violence, and I have had to negotiate my way past armed men on several occasions. Each experience has left me doubting whether I can continue. But my experiences mean little relative to the scale and frequency of what those living with war endure each and every day. That’s why we do what we do and I strive to always remember that).

4. “Never pass up an opportunity to tell those you love how much you mean it because time won’t always afford you that luxury”. I have lost close friends to war over the years. And my father died suddenly two years ago. Being in and around war makes you acutely aware of how quickly everything can change — I think the pandemic has reinforced this as well. I try not to squander those moments with family and friends because everything is impermanent.

5. “Don’t wait for anyone’s approval or permission (unless you are trying to cross a border)”. When I was younger, I wanted to fit in and find acceptance. Age brings a certain degree of confidence — just as long as it doesn’t drift into obstinance. The process of getting closer to the truth requires that we debate, discuss and continuously challenge our assumptions based on evidence. I am not as sure of anything now as I was at 22, and that’s a good thing.

You are all people of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Thomas Sadoski: This is it. This is the movement I want to inspire people to join. Getting people to consider how war, war profiteering, broken foreign policy, our elections, and how our dollars are spent can directly impact the life of an innocent child a world away…that’s how you grow a truly human society.

Amanda Seyfried: The more I understand and focus my energy on learning about things I haven’t been exposed to the more I feel I am responsible to help change them. I think it’s hard for a lot of people to wrap their heads around what’s happening in vastly different circumstances than their own specifically in communities hard hit by war and refugee camps. We DO have the ability to make an impact even from afar. It starts with knowledge and goes from there. This is exactly Where I want to put my efforts.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Thomas Sadoski: “Without people, you’re nothing.” -Joe Strummer

A life lived in intellectual and emotional isolation from the rest of the world…that’s what too much of society attempts to bend us towards. You can see it in advertising, in the behavior of so-called “influencers”, it is a mentality that I found myself surrounded by in my industry and I couldn’t abide it. Not in the face of so much needless suffering. I wanted to push against that, and I have.

Amanda Seyfried : “IT TAKES IT A VILLAGE”

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Thomas Sadoski: Bill Gates and The Bill Gates Foundation. War Child’s model of service is something to be very proud of and I think they would understand and appreciate how important it is.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

War Child USA: Instagram: @warchildusa /

Facebook: WarChildUSA /

Twitter: @warchildusa /

Thomas Sadoski: @thomas_sadoski

Amanda Seyfried: @mingey

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work

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