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



[email protected]

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

New MP Taylor Bachrach makes his first trip to Bella Coola

Bachrach said he is keen to get to know his riding and the members of his constituency

Bachrach rejects calls for police action against demonstrators

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP says only way out of crisis is “true nation-to-nation” talks

Nuxalk Nation celebrates first carpentry graduates

11 students graduated from the community’s first carpentry program

Bella Coola leave their mark on All Native Basketball Tournament as they reach Intermediate final

Nuxalk Braves bring home a strong second place finish; three individual awards for Marlon Edgar-Apps

All Native Basketball: Finals matchups start to take shape as title games approach

Two Prince Rupert sides in contention, while two dynasties are on the brink

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Toffoli scores OT winner as Canucks beat Habs 4-3

Demko makes 37 saves for Vancouver

Private clinics would harm ‘ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Child in hospital following fatal crash that killed father, sibling on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

‘Die!’: Vernon councillor mailed death threat

This story contains information that might be sensitive to some readers

Hidden message connects Castlegar homeowners decades apart

The Rodgers family was surprised when a message fell out of the walls as they were renovating

Two B.C. men plead guilty to bus-terminal assault of man with autism in Ontario

Parmvir Chahil and Jaspaul Uppal due to be sentenced in June for aggravated assault

Most Read