South Sudan became the world's newest country in July 2011. The Canadian government has committed to helping the country, part of which is our military presence as part of Operation Soprano.

“Working with the UN to accomplish the UN mandate, to help make this new nation great, to protect its civilians, it's extremely gratifying,” says Philippe-Andre Genest of the Canadian Armed Forces.

It began as a nation-building mission, but quickly switched to peacekeeping when civil war erupted just over a year ago.

The mandate now is to protect civilians who have fled the violence. In addition, five Canadian soldiers are deployed throughout the country, acting as the eyes and ears of the United Nations.

“Their primary role is to observe and report on what's happening in the country,” says Lt.-Col Sean Ward, commander of Operation Soprano.

The soldiers taking part in the mission live in Canada House, in the country’s capital.

Ward says the risks are high when his soldiers are between warring factions, but security at Canada House is tight.

This mission includes much more than our military's role. In 2014, Canada named this war-torn nation a Country of Focus. Just a few months ago, the government opened an embassy here and appointed Nicholas Coughlan, Canada's ambassador to South Sudan.

“For Canadian support to have affect, we need to remain focused on a relatively reduced set of countries, and stay the course in those countries. So South Sudan has been selected as one of the neediest,” says Coughlan.

This year, Canada contributed $100 million to humanitarian and development programs in South Sudan.

“This is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world at this time,” says Coughlan.

In a country with the highest maternal mortality in the world, Canada’s flagship initiative is to help women and children.

Canadians are training midwives and equipping hospitals with maternity wards.

“In this country, young girls, young women are more likely to die in child birth than to graduate from primary school,” says Coughlan. 

Outside the official mandate, one of the Canadian soldiers raised money to start a computer literacy class.

“It will really help me because I didn't know anything about computer, like I'd not learned it before,” says student Linda Wazemwa.

An opportunity to learn, not only for South Sudanese students, but also their teachers.

“They've really brought us from nowhere to somewhere,” says teacher Vivian Cherono.

While the Canadian soldiers are doing good work in the country, they are also having a little bit of fun, getting in a game of street hockey whenever they can.

“We are Canadian through and through,” says Genest.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Kayle Hounsell