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Burnaby woman vies for Miss Canada

Ava Vanderstarren hopes her pageant experience will help her gain knowledge and exposure as she strives to raise money to build rehabilitation centres in Africa with her partner, Fazineh Keita. - Contributed Photo
Ava Vanderstarren hopes her pageant experience will help her gain knowledge and exposure as she strives to raise money to build rehabilitation centres in Africa with her partner, Fazineh Keita.
— image credit: Contributed Photo

A Burnaby woman is vying for the title of Miss Canada and hopes to raise awareness of the plight of child soldiers as a result.

North Burnaby resident Ava Vanderstarren, 21, first signed up for the Miss B.C. pageant for the experience. She works as a local actress and model after graduating from Vancouver Film School.

Unlike other such events, the pageant is focused lessĀ  on the "beauty" aspect and more on personality and community work, Vanderstarren noted. While there's an evening gown walk, there is no swimsuit or talent competition.

She felt it represented a healthy and natural view of women. And when she won last July, it only made sense to compete for the Miss Canada title. She'll be doing just that in Montreal from Feb. 27 to March 2.

The competition will be a chance for her to gain experience and exposure. It'll also help raise awareness of the need to rehabilitate child soldiers.

Vanderstarren recently founded the non-profit Innocence Lost Foundation with her partner, Fazineh Keita. Rebel soldiers in Sierra Leone captured him when he was about eight years old and forced him to fight for them for several years. The war ended in 2001 and in 2006 he came to Canada where he met Vanderstarren in film school.

They hope to raise money to build rehabilitation and community centres for child soldiers and youth in Africa.

"Eventually our goal is to be equipped so we can rescue child soldiers from current conflicts and then rehabilitate and reintegrate them back into the community," Vanderstarren said.

She's also selling a line of jewelry she's designed with all profits going to the foundation.

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/WandaChow

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