Federal Way, Washington
Evelyn Castellar went to Honduras in 2002 in search of respite because of her failing health and ended up saving lives.
The successful businesswoman—founder and CEO of an insurance training school—had heart and lung conditions as well as breast cancer. She and husband Jose fell in love with the eerie beauty of the Honduran cloud forests (like rain forests only they “catch” precipitation in the form of clouds rather than rain). Evelyn and Jose built a winter home near one.
One stormy night, they were startled by a knock on their door. A frantic neighbor led the Castellars to his home, where a just-born infant, placenta still attached, lay choking on a dirt floor. His mother languished on a cardboard bed nearby. Both survived, but after learning how dangerous the combination of unsanitary water, dirt floors, and the lack of shoes and medical care was for her neighbors, Evelyn opened a small, free medical clinic in her guest room in 2002. Soon she was seeing hundreds of people a day, consulting with Honduran medical personnel, and imploring friends back home in Washington to assist. Today, Projecto Honduras, founded in 2008, provides medical care, education, housing, and community programs to 15,000 Hondurans with the help of more than 200 volunteers.
Evelyn (who divides her time between Honduras and Washington and whose health is still fragile) leads volunteers to Honduras twice a year to work with the organization’s myriad projects. Honduras has a desperately high infant-child mortality rate, and it is the malnourished children (two of whom she has informally adopted) who tug hardest at her heart. Her goal for her agency is simple: “To keep children from dying. To see them live.”