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Projecto Honduras founder earns Classic Woman Award
Traditional Home magazine has honored Federal Way resident Evelyn Castellar with a 2012 Classic Woman Award.
Each year, the magazine picks five volunteers nominated from across the nation who exemplify the best in American volunteerism.
"Each of our classic women saw a deep need and decided to fill it," reads the magazine story's introduction. "As honoree Evelyn Castellar puts it: 'I didn't start my organization — it started me.'"
Castellar and her husband, Jose, launched Projecto Honduras to deliver critical health care and save lives in remote villages of the Central American nation — where some children are so poor and hungry, they resort to eating dirt before an early death.
Long before Projecto Honduras became official in 2008, the Castellars were helping children in the Honduran cloud forests. They opened a small free clinic in 2002, and eventually were seeing hundreds of Hondurans daily.
Through donations and volunteers, Projecto Honduras has expanded to battle malnutrition and unsanitary conditions.
Castellar said she leads two missions a year in Honduras, connecting people with everything from prosthetic legs to treatment for rare diseases and worm infestation.
One of those diseases is kwashiorkor, a devastating illness resulting from malnutrition and protein deficiency. The disease causes children to stop growing and even smiling, Castellar noted. The children's hair turns from black to blond. Their liver and feet enlarge, and they develop anorexia.
Once the children with kwashiorkor receive food and treatment, Castellar said, their recovery is dramatic. Their hair returns to black, and the children start smiling again. Castellar said she has shown children before and after pictures, and the children don't recognize their former selves.
Projecto Honduras recently connected with volunteers from Calera High School in Alabama. The volunteers built two basic utility vehicles for villagers in the underdeveloped areas of Honduras. The vehicles will assist with transportation as well as farming, with one of the vehicles equipped with a water well drill and a small plow. Calera students also created 15 prosthetic legs out of recycled crutches.
In November, the Castellars will return to Honduras and stay between three and four months.
"I see 5,000 people each time I go," she said, noting that more than 40 communities are served by the charity. "I love it down there. It's like painting over a dirty wall. There's a difference. It's not a band-aid."
Evelyn Castellar will speak about Projecto Honduras at the Aug. 29 meeting of the Federal Way Kiwanis. The club meets at noon Wednesdays (6 p.m. first Wed. of month) at Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club. Lunch starts at 11:30 a.m.
To learn more about Projecto Honduras, visit www.projecthondurasinternational.org.
In 2009, Federal Way resident Peggy LaPorte received a Classic Woman Award from Traditional Home magazine.
LaPorte founded FUSION (Friends United to Shelter the Indigent, Oppressed and Needy) to assist local homeless families with transitional housing.
FUSION operates 16 transitional homes in Federal Way and Northeast Tacoma, and about 80 percent of clients successfully move on to permanent housing. LaPorte said the charity's recent fundraising gala brought in $132,000.