We Are Resilient: Candace Marvel
November 15, 2016

Candace Marvel

Beautiful Determination

Talking to the young and vibrant Candace “Candy” Marvel, you might not guess that she spent 21 years of her life stateless, and five years living in a refugee camp before coming to Canada as a student refugee.

The 33-year-old beauty is S’gaw Karen, a minority ethnic group of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) that was persecuted by the governing military in the Southeast Asian country.

“The Karen in Burma have suffered oppression at the hands of successive regimes of that country for decades. Forced resettlement and labour, incarceration, and denial of political representation and citizenship status rights, among other human rights violations, have led thousands of Karen to move into Thailand and many other countries,” she explains.

“My grandfather and father were actually involved in the revolution that fought against the Burmese military dictatorship. As a result, they fled and lived in exile in Thailand. That’s where I was born and raised until our village was invaded and attacked by the military soldiers. My family then went to live in a refugee camp in 1995,” she says.

After five years, Candace was determined to leave. “I decided to get out of the refugee camp to explore educational opportunities,” she says. “I left in 2000, got my GED certificate, upgraded my English and completed a distance-learning community management diploma before furthering my studies abroad in New Delhi, India. But I basically took risks because I didn’t have any proper papers or legal status then.”

Fortunately, she was able to resettle in Canada under the sponsorship of World University Service of Canada at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. “I not only wanted to seek refuge, but to also obtain higher education and contribute back to society in any way I can.”

She has definitely been doing her part ever since. After studying for a bachelor in international development studies at Dalhousie, she came to B.C. 10 years ago, settling in Surrey. Today, she is a settlement worker in schools for the Surrey School District 36.

“I provide settlement support to immigrant students and families who are new to the community, to ease their integration,” she says. “I guide the families and provide them with the skills to independently navigate through the resources and services available to them in Surrey.”

Candace wants to improve the lives of others and make a lasting impact in the community. “I find my job very rewarding and meaningful,” she says. “I continue to learn and grow from all aspects, especially from each and every individual I encounter on a daily basis.”

Candace has also stepped up as chairperson of the Karen Cultural Society of B.C., where she helps raise cultural awareness about Karen people, promotes multiculturalism and unity in the community, and helps resettled Karens adapt to Canadian culture.

An avid self-taught photographer, Candace also loves snapping pictures of Canada’s beautiful landscape, including favourite spots like Crescent Beach and Redwood Park. “Their natural beauty gives me peace and soothes my soul,” she says.

“I just love the fact that I am free to spread my unique tradition and culture while living in Canada. It feels good to be able to be ‘myself’ and not have to try to be someone else.”