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

The Quesnel Fire Hall located at 310 Kinchant St. needs improvement. Quesnel council approved applying for a grant to cover the costs. (File Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel’s $12 million capital plan not just about gold pan

While conversation surrounding the monument’s location dominated council, other projects were funded

Leah Stump was elected chief of Nazko First Nation on Dec. 14, 2020. (Photo submitted)
Nazko chief hopes to lead by example

Checkpoints around the First Nation look to prevent COVID-19 from entering the vulnerable community

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. Jan. 21, 2021. Kitimat RCMP photo
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Sonja Maas, who lives in Germany, was inspired to draw the 2021 Gold Rush Sled Dog Mail Run art after spending time in Quesnel working with a musher in 2020. (Submitted Photo)
Sled dog mail run artist inspired by 2020 event

Sonja Maas lives in Germany, and spent the 2020 sled dog run in Quesnel with a musher

Interior Health has declared the Cariboo Chilcotin a community cluster. (Angie Mindus photo)
Interior Health declares Cariboo Chilcotin region a COVID-19 cluster, 215 cases since Jan. 1

Most cases are related to transmission at social events and gatherings in Williams Lake

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Jan. 21 marks the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, according to some. (Black Press Media file photo)
The 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century is upon us

Milestone won’t be back for another 100 years

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

The top part of the fossil burrow, seen from the side, with feathery lines from the disturbance of the soil – thought to be caused by the worm pulling prey into the burrow. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)
PHOTOS: SFU researchers find evidence of ‘giant’ predatory worms on ocean floor

Fossils found the prove the existence of an ancient Taiwanese worm as long as two metres

Most Read