"Here, you go into Superstore and there is a whole aisle food of for pets, and where we come from there isn't even enough food for people."

This in response to a question I posed over dinner to our two guests, Benjamin and Daniel.

Their story is one I would be honoured to write about; more people should hear it.

It began in Sudan, in the 1980's. Both were young boys in the Sudan People's Liberation Army under John Garang.

Daniel called himself a "child soldier", and says it was better to be a part of the movement in south Sudan and benefit from its protection.

Here I am a bit foggy on where exactly both Benjamin and Daniel had ended up. They fled to a neighbouring country, but ultimately, Daniel says, John Garang petitioned Fidel Castro to bring the children of the SPLA to Cuba for education. (Reference: Sudan's "Lost Boys".)

In 1983, with Castro's nod, Sudanese children, male and female, were brought to Cuba in waves, with the mission to return to southern Sudan, educated and impassioned, to develop their nation.

"We lived and were educated and ate three meals a day for 15 years, and I didn't pay a single cent," said Daniel, praising Cuba's unheard-of generousity.

Both men, now in their early thirties, speak fluent Arabic, Spanish, and English. They both earned medical degrees in Cuba, but the situation eventually deteriorated to the point where these Sudanese doctors were offered permanent residency in Canada. Civil war was boiling in Sudan; returning home was not an option.

Daniel flew into Toronto in the month of November; the first time he had set eyes on snow.

"My skin was squeezing so tight," he laughed, gesturing towards his cheeks.

Daniel lives in Calgary, and Benjamin recently moved here from Edmonton. Neither of them is permitted to work as doctors in Canada. Daniel worked in a meat packing plant; Benjamin helped disabled people with daily activities.

Their constant dream has been to return to Sudan. Daniel has not seen his family since 1983. Their homeland agreed to peace last year, and a tentative, relative calm has descended. Finally, a window of opportunity to re-enter southern Sudan.

But these meat-processing doctors were out of practice, needing updated training.

This is how I learned of Benjamin and Daniel. Along with 13 other Sudanese doctors, Daniel and Ben are partnering with Samaritan's Purse and the University of Calgary to upgrade their training and medical knowledge, and learn how to teach HIV/AIDS preventative awareness, and basic health and hygiene, through community development programs.

They will return to Sudan and finally fulfill that yearning for home.

They are convinced John Garang was murdered. They are not confident about peace. They are not sure of their homes anymore. They are accustomed to cold weather and Western lifestyle. They are intelligent, funny, and earnest. And they are anything but intimidated by the future.

I asked them if they were frustrated with American society, with its opulence, selfishness, and carelessness.

It's frustrating, yes, says Daniel, the more talkative of the two. He mentions the pet food aisle. His simple illustration sickens me.

I am challenged.

How could I think only one couldn't make a difference? That I am just one in a billion? My seeming insignificance is no excuse for abandoning my responsibility as a fellow human.


best family photos ever

They are the best, and no one will argue! (Because no one reads this.)