Our Story

Enrique Santos Valdez


A Rough Start

When Enrique was only 9 years old, his mother was faced with a difficult decision. Enrique’s stepfather refused to have him in the home. His mother could either send him away, or be left alone, pregnant, with no way to support herself or her children. She made the harrowing choice to send Enrique away from the island of Roatán, to mainland Honduras. He would live with his grandmother, where she thought he’d be safe.

Unfortunately, Enrique’s grandmother was not happy with the arrangement and forced him to work for his keep. As a 9-year-old, he worked at a construction site all day. The only way for him to stay in school was to attend night classes with older teens and adults – after working his full-time job during the day.

But even at that young age, he was determined to continue his education and improve his life.

Some nights, when he got home, exhausted after a day of hard labor and a full evening of classwork, his grandmother would refuse to unlock the door for him. He had to sleep on the ground outside the house and cover up with banana leaves to stay warm.

On His Own

At age 12, Enrique moved out of his grandmother’s house to live with a young friend. By age 15, he was completely on his own, paying his own rent and working his way through school.

Looking back, he considers himself extremely lucky to have avoided gang involvement, since he would have been the perfect target – young, vulnerable, and alone.

He’s thankful for several people who came into his life at the right moments, recognized his potential, and offered him better employment and a chance to learn new skills.

A New Direction

A turning point came for Enrique when he was about 18. In 1998, he joined a church and started volunteering with mission teams during the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch, which had devastated much of Honduras.

One day, he was traveling by helicopter to a mission site. What he saw on that ride struck him. He looked down on the hills where communities had once stood, which were now just scattered with wreckage. The utter devastation and suffering that so many people were facing changed his life direction. In that moment, despite his own difficult circumstances – or perhaps because of them – he decided he wanted to spend his life helping others.

Soon after that experience, Enrique moved back to Roatán, where his mother and siblings still lived. He met Joey, a missionary on the island. He began volunteering with Joey’s soccer team, community projects, and mission teams from the US.

Full Circle

In 2003, Enrique married Jackie, and the couple later welcomed a son, Diego, and a daughter, Lindsey.

Enrique and Jackie each started their own small businesses to support their family, but Enrique never forgot his desire to help others, and the family continued to help their neighbors in small ways as often as they could.

In 2010, Enrique accepted a full-time position as a regional director for Living Water 4 Roatan, a Christian ministry. And in 2016, he decided to leave that position so he and Jackie could start their own nonprofit – now known as Corazón Catracho.

Enrique is most passionate about Corazón Catracho’s Home for Youth project. This home for youth is a way to give young people what he wished he had growing up – a home away from home that’s:

    • Safe, stable, and reliable
    • Available whenever they need it
    • Full of caring people who take an active role in their education as they work hard to pursue a better life

Jackie Solis Peña

Assistant director

Jackie believes that her desire to help others came when she and Enrique were living in a large colonia on Roatán soon after their marriage. Many of their neighbors were living in poverty, and she remembers watching children walking by with no shoes. She thought back to times during her childhood when her family would go without, and she felt a strong desire in her heart to help those children.

One of Jackie’s favorite Corazón Catracho projects is passing out backpacks to children at the beginning of the school year. She loves seeing the joy in their faces when they receive their brand new backpacks and school supplies.

Jackie enjoys working alongside Enrique on the Corazón Catracho projects. Before Corazón Catracho, the two were often apart, working hard on their separate businesses. Now, they’re able to spend more time as a family. They treasure involving their children Diego and Lindsey in their volunteer work with them. They both believe this has brought them closer as a family.

Joey Gruner

Board member

An Unlikely Home

When Joey returned to the US from a Honduran mission trip in 1999, he was so moved that he told his wife, Angie, that he wanted to move their family – including two small children – to Honduras to volunteer long-term. At first, she thought he wasn’t serious.

When it became clear that he was, she took some time for thought, soul-searching, and prayer, and eventually came on board with the idea. In 2001, the family moved to Roatán for two life-changing years.

Joey had been a high school girls’ soccer coach in the US. In Roatán, he created the only soccer team for teenage girls in the area at the time. Through it, he formed relationships with families and learned about the community’s needs. He also hosted mission teams from the US, leading them to complete community projects like bridges and a playground.

Continued Support

Upon returning to the US, Joey created the nonprofit organization Mission Roatán to continue supporting the important community outreach work of friends in Roatán.

Throughout his time in mission work, Joey has always tried to involve and give ownership to the people he serves. He is very happy to step back and take on a support role as Enrique and Jackie drive the mission and vision of Corazón Catracho.

Alysha Gil

Marketing, technical support

When Joey and Angie moved their family to Honduras for two years, one of the two children who went with them was their daughter, Alysha. She lived in Honduras from the time she was 11 to 13 years old, and the experience has shaped her perspective and life path to the present day.

She continued to volunteer in Roatán almost every year until she was in college. After graduating with a degree in Elementary Education and Spanish, she moved back to Roatán to teach 2nd grade at a bilingual school for a year, and has visited as often as she can.

Alysha is a current board member of Mission Roatán. She helped to design and develop Corazón Catracho’s website in hopes of gaining more support for Enrique and Jackie’s work, ultimately allowing them to help even more people in Roatán.

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