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

Just Posted

BC Summer Games – one year out

A message from Maple Ridge’s mayor.

Rescue puppies from Taiwan fill local families’ homes with love and hope

Pitt Meadows realtor investing time in introducing rescue puppies to their forever homes

Pride flags stolen from Maple Ridge church

Went missing sometime Friday night, says Golden Ears United reverend

Whonnock man tried but could not save victim of Maple Ridge fire

Michel Lefebvre was among many who attempted to enter the burning building

Maple Ridge musician’s newest album about “unrequitedness”

Rob Taylor released Passionate Crime earlier this year

Unsealed record suggests U.S. man convicted of murdering Vancouver Island couple left DNA on zip tie in 1987

William Talbott is set to be sentenced Wednesday in the murders of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg

Surrey court clerk files human rights complaint related to concussion

Deborah A. Ryane claims her employer discriminated against her on basis of mental disability

Food fight: Liberals, Tories trade shots as pre-campaign battles intensify

Health Canada released an overhauled document that did away with traditional food groups and portion sizes

Okanagan Air Cadet challenges gender-exclusive haircut policy

Haircut regulation inspires challenge around gender identity

25 new wheelchair-accessible cabins open at Cultus Lake Provincial Park

Maple Bay Campground is now home to 25 new wheelchair friendly cabins, a first for BC Parks

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Two brands of ice cream sandwiches recalled due to presence of metal

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a recall on Iceberg and Originale Augustin brands

Sexual assaults, extortion on the rise even as crime rates stay low: Stats Canada

Rates of police-reported sexual assault rose for the fourth year in a row

Most Read