Our Vendors: Sang (Megaphone – Victoria, British Columbia, Canada)

By Sang, Megaphone vendor

Sang is one of Megaphone’s most promising new vendors in Victoria, British Columbia’s capital city where Megaphone (headquartered in Vancouver) expanded in spring 2014.

He started selling the street paper in front of the BC Liquor Store at Menzies and Toronto Street in Victoria a few months. Already, Sang has established himself as a familiar vendor in his community. He’s also experienced profound changes. Chief among them: reconnecting with his relatives in Afghanistan, 40 years after he left the country. Now, Sang is on a mission to help his family.

This is his story.

Photo: Adam Gilmer

I came here from my home country a long time ago. For 40 years, I didn’t see my family. I didn’t have contact, basically. I was in Quebec for a while. I moved to Alberta for a while. And I’ve got serious problem with my leg, so I was not able to work. Then I moved to British Columbia because the weather is warmer here and the medical system is better. I’ve been in Victoria about six years.

[Before I started selling Megaphone], I was not working. I have some disability problems. But I met a fellow—his name is Jon, and he sells [Megaphone] papers in front of the Bay on Douglas Street. I talked to him. I said, ‘I’m looking for work, I have disability problems.’ So he started talking to me about Megaphone. He introduced me to it, and he brought me here [to the Victoria Disability Resource Centre to start vendor training].

I’ve been selling Megaphone for a few months. I sell in front of the liquor store right now in James Bay. I’ve got a lot of regular customers. They ask me all the time, “When’s the next one? When’s the next one?” They like the magazine and I sell a few of the [Voices of the Street] books. They liked that, too.

Mainly, people buy this paper because of compassion. Some people, they really understand, you know? I tell them, “Make sure not to throw it in the garbage! Read that paper when you buy from me!” They say, “Oh, I get a bunch of flyers.” I say, “This is not a flyer!” Most come back and see me again. They say, “Oh, it was very good. Very interesting stories there.”

After 40 years of not having contact with my family, I recently got in contact again.

After 40 years of not having contact with my family, I recently got in contact again. I got Facebook. I checked Facebook and I found one person from that area, the rural region of Afghanistan where my family is from. He’s an engineer. So eventually I got in contact with him. I introduced myself. I said, “That’s my brother. These are my parents.” Technology’s a really amazing thing. It changes people’s lives.

After 40 years, my mother, the people that are close to me, most of them have passed away. I have one brother left, one sister, one uncle. And they have children. My sister, she was crying for an hour [when she finally heard from me]. She said, “Oh, we thought you were dead already! Did you come back to life?”

They are in a rural region of Afghanistan in the mountains. There’s no Internet or anything. They call sometimes. They told me they are building a hospital there. Basically they don’t have any medical supplies or anything. There are kids there dying of simple diseases, people without legs. They asked if I have a contact in Canada with a non-profit agency. I found a place where they donate their old medical equipment or medicine or supplies. The problem is that $20,000 is needed to ship equipment overseas.

I’m trying to help them. That’s my main goal right now. I also have to deal with my own medical issues here. I’m in recovery right now. But I’d like people to know that I’m trying to help my family in Afghanistan [to build a hospital]. If I succeed at that I will be very happy. If not, I’m going to keep trying.