Back From Sudan and More Grateful Than Ever On Thanksgiving

After a trip to Africa this month it is impossible to not be extra grateful for what I have and what most of us have in this great country. I am often asked why work in Africa and not closer to home? The answer I give is that it is important to do both, give to our neighbors and extend our neighborhood a bit to the rest of the world. Helping out in both at home and abroad are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to work with the homeless and needy families here and to find an international group to help at the same time. This Thanksgiving season is a perfect time to do both.

Although I am Jewish I have worked with and supported the mission of Christian Solidarity International. They have worked in Sudan for over sixteen years in the midst of the worst war carnage since World War II with the exception of Cambodia with almost two million people murdered in a war that lasted from 1983-2005. Many people were taken as slaves from Southern Sudan to Northern Sudan and Christian Solidarity has brought over 100,000 slaves back to their home villages. I was witnessed 120 of these former slaves coming back home to Southern Sudan from years of slavery. They have endured years of forced work, rape, hunger and beatings.

It is joyous to see these people come home but they come home to uncertainty. -- Food and clean water is one area that remains a constant uncertainty in an area so torn by war that even the animals bailed for Kenya and Uganda. Most people in Southern Sudan live with hunger just around the corner. Basic food for a week costs $3.00 -- which means some people will eat one day and not the next. If a village/town is lucky then the government or the United Nations has put in a well with a pump. I saw people getting water from a hole in the ground that most Americans would make sure that their pet did not get near.

This month we were informed that in America one in five children do not have enough nutritious food to eat. That malnutrition then impacts their brain development. As bad as this news is for American children, it means that some children go to bed hungry a couple of times a week while some children in the world go to bed hungry most of the time. Worldwide one in six people have trouble finding 2100 calories a day and this malnutrition has long lasting effects on learning and the ability to be productive adults. -- It is hard to imagine for Americans, who have so many food choices, that there are people who have none and in fact often have no food.

I have learned is that there are so many compassionate Americans who understand the pain of others, from the college students in Fargo, North Dakota who have launched a massive food drive called to fill the Fargo dome with donations for food pantries, to the work of tiny organizations like Christian Solidarity International. There is genuine caring and concern in America and I am thankful that I live a country where people give of their hearts and their wallets to make this planet a better place for all of us.

Ellen Ratner is Washington bureau chief of Talk Radio News Service and a Fox Forum contributor.