Ava Vanderstarren and her partner, Fazineh Keita. (Sandra Leung)

Past Miss BC winner helps rehabilitate former child soldiers from Africa

Miss BC 2013 Ava Vanderstarren is fundraising to build a healing centre in Sierra Leone

When Ava Vanderstarren competed in and won the Miss BC pageant in 2013, she was inspired to establish her own charity. Six years later, she continues working on the rehabilitation of former child soldiers in Sierra Leone.

“On that weekend, I decided what are the most important things to me, for my platform, which were women’s rights and rehabilitation of child soldiers,” the Chilliwack native said.

Her partner, Fazineh Keita, is a former child soldier from the Sierra Leone civil war and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. The two decided to found the Innocence Lost Foundation in 2013.

“We thought that, later on in our lives when our careers were established, we would do humanitarian work. Miss BC gave me the push to start it in then instead of waiting,” Vanderstarren said.

The couple is raising funds to build a healing centre that will offer education, skills training, and therapy programs for former child soldiers.

They have so far raised $115,000 of their $200,000 goal for phase one, which includes the land purchase, a well, and a medical clinic. The 3.5-acre site will later include a library, computer lab, classrooms, soccer field, and outdoor teaching areas.

Photo by M3 Architecture

The art therapy programs were inspired by Keita’s experience in overcoming trauma.

“Usually, people don’t want to talk about things,” Vanderstarren said. “[But] if you’re working through an acting piece, writing, painting, drawing, doing activities – there is natural healing that starts to occur.”

She recommends that Miss BC contestants volunteer with local organizations and only start a charity if they are ready for a lifelong commitment.

“Choose a platform that is personal to you and something you would dedicate yourself to.”

This year’s Miss BC pageant will be held June 29 – July 1 at Chief Sepass Theatre in Fort Langley.

For more information on Miss BC click here



baneet.braich@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

Two new COVID-19 cases reported in Interior Health

The total number of Interior Health cases since the beginning of the pandemic is now at 522

Four 100 Mile-based Stormriders deployed to California

There they will join thousands of firefighters working to contain over 25 major wildfires

Police impound tiny home, trailer en route to the Yukon

A Vancouver Island driver was pulled over on Highway 97 after serious concerns with his custom-built trailer.

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Most Read