Evelyn Castellar is preparing to spread joy to more than 1,000 Honduran children this holiday season.
The Federal Way resident, and founder of Projecto Honduras, spends half of the year in Central America providing medical services and humanitarian aid to more than 15,000 patients annually.
“Evelyn is truly one of the most inspiring people I have ever had the privilege of meeting,” said Shelley Pauls, who nominated Castellar as the Mirror’s November Citizen of the Month.
“Evelyn brings hope, healing, love and laughter to the very poor, sick and broken-hearted,” Pauls told the Mirror. “Evelyn and her husband, Jose, work endlessly to help improve the lives of those in need throughout their community and the remote areas where people suffer the greatest poverty, tragedy and need.”
In 2008, the Castellars founded the nonprofit charity that provides medical care, education, housing, humanitarian aid, and community programs to more than 100 communities surrounding Belaire, Honduras, according to their website.
Evelyn, a former paramedic, and her husband, Jose, relocated part-time to Honduras for sun, rest, and healing when Evelyn began to have health issues in the early 2000s.
With Christmas less than a month away, Castellar, along with volunteers and on-site medical teams, are preparing gifts and sweet treats for more than 1,000 kids in Honduras.
“We are giving out at least 1,000 little bags and it’ll have toys, toothbrushes, toothpaste, some school supplies such as a pencil and notebook, soaps and other items like candy and cookies,” Castellar explained. “They’re pretty nice bags we put together.”
This year, the organization is also preparing to deliver fixings for a holiday feast to approximately 300 families. The families will receive a chicken and a bag of food including rice, beans, oil, salt, and other ingredients, she said.
The generous, and often life-saving, offerings are funded by donations from Evelyn and Jose Castellar, community organizations such as Kiwanis Federal Way, the South King Tool Library and FUSION, and donations from family, friends, and kind strangers.
“I’m very grateful to Federal Way and all the ways the people have helped,” Castellar said.
Each year, a container is packed with necessary items from medical supplies to toys at the Projecto Honduras warehouse in Federal Way and then shipped to Honduras, Castellar said, noting that 100% of the donations and supplies goes to the people being served.
“She travels to the most remote areas to find the forgotten people,” Pauls said. Pauls recently completed a mission trip earlier this month with Projecto Honduras and said the experience was “life-changing” because of the heartbreaking situations people live in, yet witnessing firsthand the hope and joy spread by the Castellars.
Pauls joined a team from Family Life Community Church and spent one week watching Castellar’s selflessness in action.
“It’s difficult to really comprehend what they are accomplishing in Honduras, until you experience it,” Pauls told the Mirror. “We saw homes and schools that they have built. We met many people whose lives have been spared because of the medicines, food and care they’ve received. We met several children that have been sponsored and are having the opportunity to get an education … They would truly be forgotten without their genuine care and concern.”
The Castellars have focused efforts to providing services nearby the cloud forest, an interior mountainous habitat, where the conditions are harsh, Castellar said.
“It’s hard to believe people live like that in the 21st century, especially in a country so close to the United States,” she said, describing the tragic situations she’s seen. “But I don’t quit. I won’t stop because no one else comes here.”
Currently, Projecto Honduras is in the early stages of building another eye clinic and is working to reforest surrounding areas. As it is the rainy season, the attention is also focused on keeping younger children ages 1-4 safe, dry and healthy, she said.
Pauls recalled watching Castellar wash lice from children’s hair, dance with kids during a music camp, and collect funds for a coffin for a mother who just lost her baby.
Castellar holds the hands and walks alongside those who are struggling, stricken by sickness or poverty, or the loss of family members due to a combination of the two.
“When you see people dying, when you see the conditions they live in … I don’t think most people can walk away from this,” Castellar said.