Cutler Bay resident Natacha Sarthou Kalicharan is a stayat- home mom who found an unusual path to reach her goal of helping build houses for the poor around the world. Now, with a pageant win and the title of “Mrs. West Indies International 2014,” she hopes to reach a wider audience with her dream.
Kalicharan, Haitian born with a multinational heritage, has been married to husband Sean for 15 years and has three sons who she home schools.
She attended FIU and graduated with a bachelor’s in finance in 1994, then worked in banking for several years before devoting allher time to her family. Since childhood she had a desire to serve God by helping the poor.
“In 2009, my sons and I started a shoebox savings to build homes for the poorest of the poor around the world,” Kalicharan said.
“Prior to this, we had been donating to feed the poor with Food for the Poor Inc. in Coconut Creek, FL, but to build a house costs a lot more — $3,200 — in the Caribbean and South America. Thus, the reason we started a savings.”
That humble beginning had limited reach, so when a pageant director encouraged her in 2013 to participate as a way to promote her platform, the mom, a former Orange Bowl Princess, decided to try. Entering the Haiti Pageant held in Miami that year, she became second runnerup in the Mrs. Haiti International competition. As a result, she and her donors raised the funds to build a house for an impoverished family in Haiti.
This year she participated again in the Haiti Pageant, this time held in Chicago, again being chosen as second runnerup. But surprisingly, the pageant director and the judge told her that she would receive the title and crown as “Mrs. West Indies International 2014” and she was able to participate in the Mrs. International 2014 pageant which took place on July 25 and 26 in Jacksonville.
“That is the miracle,” Kalicharan said. “And as Mrs. Haiti, I would be limited to Haiti. But as Mrs. West Indies International, it suits my mission better since we are building in the Caribbean and Latin America.”
This year’s win might not have happened but for the support of her family. Kalicharan said they made the difference.
“After the first pageant, that was it for me,” she said. “But my sons said I may win the crown next time, so they encouraged me to go. My husband is very supportive because he sees and knows that I did it for a greater purpose and not for vainglory. My husband feels proud overall that I won Mrs. West Indies International.”
She said that although she always had helped various charities over the years, she had felt driven to do something more — something with greater impact.
“Because it does not take much to feed the poor, it’s an easy task,” Kalicharan said. “Every pay period one can write a check for $15 to feed a family per month, or $44 to feed a child for the year. But what I realized is that the poor need more than food. They need shelter.
“The dilapidated tin shacks and mud houses they live in are not safe and healthy. Research indicates that every 17 seconds a child 5 years old and under dies predominantly due to pneumonia and diarrhea as a result of unclean water, the lack of sanitation, and inadequate housing. That is approximately 2,000 children per day around the world,” she added.
“And through adequate housing, we are reducing infant mortality, breaking the cycles of sickness and poverty, raising the education level, and increasing productivity boosting up the economy. Adequate housing means a permanent, concrete house with sanitation, access to clean water, built at a new locality from the slums, where there are job opportunities and schools nearby.”
Kalicharan is also the author of two books, BEFORE ‘Boy Meets Girl’ & AFTER, and Married But Still a Virgin, available at www.xulonpress.com.
“Children are our future generation, and there are children in the slums that have big dreams too,” Kalicharan said. “And they will make a difference someday. It takes us to save them.”
More information about her platform, “From Huts To Houses,” can be found at www.facebook.com/mrs.westindiesnatacha.
For information on the housing fundraiser visit www.foodforthepoor.org/natacha. All donations are tax-deductible.