Caroline Nguyen Ticarro, founder of the humanitarian organization called Catalyst Foundation, was welcomed to Ramapo College on Friday. Ticarro presented the issues of internal child trafficking and adoption while discussing her multi-pronged approach for restoring dignity to ethnic minorities. She also discussed how best to help others build communities in Vietnam to further prevent human trafficking.
Born in 1970 Vietnam, Ticarro was a “child of the war.” She became a refugee as her family fled the country in 1975 to live in the United States where she was sponsored by another family in Minnesota. As Ticarro explained, they were never allowed to reveal their true ethnicity while in the states.
“I was Hawaiian a lot, because, you know, why not?” Ticarro jokingly added. It wasn’t until 23 years later that she was exposed to the dangers of human trafficking. It became clear when she returned to Vietnam to adopt her twin daughters thar she wanted to make a difference for more people in need.
“Being a mother wasn’t enough for me, helping an orphanage just wasn’t enough for me; I wanted to do more,” said Ticarro.
The mission of Catalyst Foundation, which was founded in 1999, is to provide basic needs, job opportunities, education and counseling to families living in extreme poverty in Vietnam. There are currently 50 families who are a part of the organization. In order to achieve its goals, the foundation approaches problems with holistic solutions. It ensures that basic human rights are expected and every person has the right to self-dignity.
The foundation develops many projects to grow its mission, and Ticarro shared one called Project Backpack with students and faculty at her presentation. Project Backpack is focused on providing education to children ages 5-18. They are provided with food and full physical and mental health resources, something that these families are not familiar with.
Ticarro presented the frightening statistic that only one percent of families who live in poorer conditions in Vietnam are allowed medical care.
Additionally, Ticarro shared personal stories of families who realize that poverty, discrimination and dehumanization can change to hope and a future for their children. She explained that the mother is normally the sole provider, sometimes taking 3-6 hours out of her day to travel to get fresh water for her family. Realizing that this is not how anyone should live on a day-to-day basis, Catalyst Foundation builds houses and provides the water and sanitation these families used to lack.
Ticarro encouraged interested students to join Catalyst Foundation by volunteering in Vietnam or donating to the organization. Volunteer work includes building houses, planting gardens, tutoring children and/or adults and teaching basic health and safety classes to the families who are part of the foundation.