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Turning hardship into hope: Stephen Sander

The power of kindness

Stephen Sander was just a teenager when the 1947 partition of India led him to lose everything—his family, the chance to go to school, and life as he knew it.

As a refugee, it was a very challenging time that was filled with adversity. But it was during these years that Stephen discovered something profound: how a small act of kindness can change a life. A pivotal moment in Stephen’s life occurred as he was escaping the violence in Pakistan during the partition of India with his four younger brothers and sister. After the train they were on became stuck for several days, other passengers generously shared the very little food they had with his family. Without this generosity, Stephen’s family likely wouldn’t have survived the journey. 

Stephen witnessed the power of compassion a few years later. While living on the streets of New Delhi, a shopkeeper let him keep his belongings in their store so that he could work during the day and attend night school—which allowed him to get a degree in education and chase his dream of immigrating to Canada.

Years later, that dream came true when Stephen moved to Bridgewater, Nova Scotia to teach. He never forgot the way residents welcomed him with open arms—inviting him to their cottages and even teaching him how to drive. “It was really a re-building of his spirit,” his daughter Karen said. “It gave him a sense of hope.” 

Stephen eventually moved to Vancouver, where he founded one of the country’s largest property management companies, Hollyburn Properties. He was determined to make a difference in the communities that helped him rebuild his life—which he did in countless ways, contributing to every neighbourhood Hollyburn is part of. Stephen believed strongly in giving back. As someone who was deeply focused on his family, he instilled similar values in his eight children and 24 grandchildren—not to mention the employees of Hollyburn Properties. 

Several months before Stephen’s passing, the Sander family and Hollyburn Properties made a visionary gift to fund Canada’s first 3D endoscopic system at BC Children’s Hospital. This innovative technology provides surgeons with never-before-seen 3D views during delicate minimally-invasive ear, nose and throat procedures.

“My father loved the fact that this revolutionary technology was designed specifically for children, who have different needs than adults,” Karen said. “He felt strongly that a healthy beginning for the children of our province is key to a bright future and thriving  community.” 

We are forever grateful for Stephen’s dedication to transforming the lives of children and families in BC.

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