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Her heart’s still in Honduras
For the last five years Evelyn Castellar has been operating a free clinic in the rural town of Belaire, Honduras. She travels there twice a year and is now getting ready for another trip.
Honduras is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, according to the CIA World Factbook. It also has one of the highest infant mortality rates in Central America with a high risk of infectious diseases.
Castellar attributes the health problems to a lack of sanitation. Few people can afford running water and rely on a nearby river. Any water needed for cleaning, bathing, and even drinking comes from the same source.
Parasites, lice and fungus are rampant problems in Belaire. The combination of unsanitary water, dirt floors and the absence of shoes leave the people, children especially, vulnerable to illness. While administering medical attention, she tries to teach proper care to those who come to the clinic.
Medical help is available in a neighboring town but most cannot afford it. Castellar says the Belaire clinic is unique in that it is the only truly free clinic available.
“I keep going just because no one else does,” Castellar said.
Castellar says that because of socio-economic issues, the people lack electricity, education, facilities and the opportunity to improve. Most of those who come to the clinic are displaced “mountain people.” They live high in the mountains, away from the city. Many refuse to travel outside the area and are suspicious of modern medicine.
“We’re in a little pocket that is kind of forgotten,” Castellar said.
Building the organization, all while running her own business, has kept Castellar busy. After a few years, she enlisted the help of friends and colleagues.
“She funded this for years on her own, she and her husband. Evelyn wanted to do more but couldn’t do it alone,” secretary Vicki Ennesser said.
The organization is completely donation based, according to Shari Cotes, the organization’s treasurer. Projecto Honduras just received their non-profit status which, Cotes says, will help with fundraising.
Volunteers who make the trip with Castellar pay all their own expenses. Ennesser’s daughter, Mariah, along with Cotes’ son and a third student, made the trip last June.
Just days after graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School, Mariah left to spend the bulk of her summer break in Honduras.
Ennesser said when most students were awaiting the end of school, all her daughter could think about was the upcoming trip.
“I started packing days before graduation,” Mariah said.
Mariah plans to become a pediatrician. Her knowledge of basic medical care and first-aid allowed her to assist in the clinic during the summer while also teaching English. Mariah describes the people of Belaire as the kindest and most gracious she had ever met and said the trip “really solidified what I want to do with my life.”
Although Ennesser was nervous about sending her teenage daughter to another country, she couldn’t deny her the opportunity of a lifetime. When Mariah returned home, she could see a change in her. The following day, Mariah tagged along while her mother was grocery shopping.
“As soon as she walked into the store, she started crying,” Ennesser said.
Mariah says the experience was life changing and is now saving money so that she can take part in a future trip.
Cotes said shoes and medical supplies are what is most needed. However, cash donations help the most people because the cost of shipping can run into the thousands.
Projecto Honduras is always looking for assistance. If you would like to help, donations can be sent to 1925 S. 341st Pl. in Federal Way, 98003. To learn more, visit www.projectohonduras.org.