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

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

Volunteer Robbie McKnight works the screening table at the Coast Mountain College COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Smithers. (Deb Meissner photo)
Smithers clinic expands vaccine eligibility to ages 60+

Community members born in 1961 or earlier can now call for an appointment at 1-844-255-7555

Styrofoam burning at the Woodmere Tree Nursery in Telka created billowing black smoke over Tyhee Lake and resulted in air quality advisory for Bulkley Valley. (Contributed photo)
VIDEO: Telkwa styrofoam fire air quality advisory lifted

A woodpile fire at Woodmere Tree Nursery spread to styrofoam blocks causing air quality concerns

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

The Smithers Local Health Area reported just six new cases of COVID-19 for the week of March 21 - 27. (BC CDC graphic)
Weekly COVID cases decline in Smithers and Northwest

Smithers community members born in 1951 or before (70 years old) now eligible for vaccination

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Most Read