HOLA!

Time to brush up on my Spanish, as we leave for the Choluteca region of southern Honduras on February 5th.  This will be the 8th time (I have lost count) I have been to this area to work on various projects.  Although each year is different, each year is the same in so many ways.  Although I will miss welcoming our new buyers into their brand new homes in the Nashville area, it will be a great time to reflect on just how fortunate we are to live in Middle Tennessee.

We will arrive in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, the capital city around lunch time.

Arriving at Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Arriving at Tegucigalpa, Honduras

It will be warm and we will probably stop at KFC for a bite before beginning the 4-hour drive to Choluteca, where we will rendezvous with others and drive another 1.5 hours to our home for the week, Hotel Barcelona, in San Marcos de Colon, Honduras, very close to the border with Nicaragua. The first floor of the hotel is a department store chain operated by WalMart.

This is our home for the week!

This is our home for the week!

We will pick up our rental trucks and trek down the Pan American Highway, where you see something different every time.  Landslides are very common, and so are the ways they are fixed.

This is actually one of the neater road repairs you will see along the Pan American Highway in Honduras

This is actually one of the neater road repairs you will see along the Pan American Highway in Honduras

Along the road less traveled is where you will find the homes we will be working in.

Along the road less traveled is where you will find the homes we will be working in.

This year, our group will be installing electricity into the homes of 21 families.  During the week, we will spend time with many old friends, and make a lot of new friends.  More details to come when we return!

If you would like to read about our other trips to Honduras, click the ‘Life In Honduras” tab on this site.

See you again soon!

Trey Lewis is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the State of Tennessee and Vice-President of Sales for Tennessee’s largest home builder, OleSouth.com, specializing in new homes in the Greater Nashville area to include Nashville, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Gallatin, Clarksville, Fairview, and Spring Hill, Tennessee.

Honduras 2013 (Part 2) – Everything changes.

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Every year, Rotarians from District 6760 and friends visit the southern region of Honduras with plans to make a difference in the lives of as many Hondurans as possible.

For 2013, seven represented The Rotary Club of Spring Hill & Thompson Station TN for this year’s projects.  Attending were Les Bosarge, Huntly Gordon, Keith Clodfelter, Trey Lewis, Ann Bassett, Sharon Fuller, and Sara Johnson, a member of Brentwood Rotary.

During the seven day visit, one part of our group continually wired homes in remote villages while others participated in activities at local schools, as well as a dental clinic in coordination with the Choluteca Rotary Club.

Every year, there are big changes to the landscape of southern Honduras.  The largest shopping mall in Central America is located just across the street from the Tegucigalpa airport.

 

 

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But the greatest difference and change is the lives of the people.  Upon arriving, we learned some great news from a past project.  Back in 2011, Huntly Gordon presented a workbelt and tools worth over $500 to Douglas, an unemployed local villager of Jayacayan.  We learned that Douglas showed up at a construction jobsite with his tools and was hired to be an electrician, and now has his own home and family.

After getting our assignment, we rolled onward to San Marcos De Colon to check into the Hotel Barcelona which would be our home for the next five nights.  We have stayed there many times, so it was almost like going home!

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My room at the Hotel Barcelona.  Very nice, at $15 per night USDm breakfast included.

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There was even hot water!  Check out this apparatus that is not UL approved!

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And our view from the Hotel Barcelona

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The next day, we hit the ground running to bring electricity to families in remote villages near San Marcos de Colon such as this family.

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Change.  It is everywhere you look.  At home, at work, in southern Honduras.  Over the next week, you’ll see just how much change can be made – one life at a time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honduras Visit 2013 – The great news first!

Adobe Stove Pila Adobe Casa AdobeStoveCooking Casa and Clothesline Casa Plastic Sheet Roof Chicken Coop Lord's Prayer Espanol Hillside Village Village Road Village Cemetery Wood CasaJust one blog post cannot do justice in summing up everything that happens over a week’s time in a foreign country.   There is so much to tell about this year’s visit, but there is some really great news you need to read about first.

Over a year-and-a-half ago, young Marlon Sanchez fell from a tree and pulled his leg from his hip.  Surgeries at the local hospital were unsuccessful.  Last year, Jim Johnston and others from the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club met young Marlon and his family and decided to do whatever they could to help.  When returning home, Jim Johnston made contact with Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and their surgical staff about helping this child.  Just recently, Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and their surgical staff volunteered to perform the much needed surgery on Marlon.

Marlon is now six years old.  Yesterday, he and his mother Maria, boarded a plane in Tegucigalpa, Honduras headed to Nashville, accompanied by Jim Johnston and other members of the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club!  The surgery will take one day, followed by a week in the hospital, and then six weeks of rehab before they are able to return to their native Honduras.  There will be many expenses incurred during this procedure and visit, so if you would like to help, please contact the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club at 931.762.7917 or 931.762.4678.

Can you remember the first time you ever saw an airplane?  What about flush toilets and hot/cold running water?  Electric stoves?  Elevators?  The list goes on.  Marlon and his mother, Maria, will be seeing many things for the first time in their lives.  They will have no choice but to be overwhelmed, if not somewhat frightened with the experience that awaits them.  Please keep them in your prayers, and while you’re at it, say a prayer of thanks for Jim Johnston and Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital for making this life-changing surgery a reality for Marlon and his family.

Take a look at the above scenes from southern Honduras.  These scenes are not of the actual village where Marlon lives, but scenes we encountered during the 2013 electrical project performed by the Rotary Club of Spring Hill & Thompson Station.

Honduras – Let’s go again!

The highlight of each new year is returning to Honduras with Rotarians from District 6760 and friends. We will spend one week in the Choluteca region of southern Honduras. We will visit many friends we have come to know over the years, and meet many more!

This year, our group will bring electricity to a total of 68 families. In the Las Delicias village near San Marcos De Colon, we will complete service for 22 homes. During this time, we will stay at one of our favorite hotels – The Hotel Barcelona in San Marcos De Colon.

After the work is finished there, we will move to the Rivera Hotel in Choluteca and complete the wiring for 46 homes in the village of Tapaci, just outside of El Jocote, which we “electrified” in 2008.

Last year, our project was to build a home for the family of Mario Sandoval and Dania Osorto. Windows and doors have been installed since we were there and I look forward to posting those pictures when we return.

Here is Mario, Dania, Daniela, and Mario Jr. in front of their new home.

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Honduras is a place where everything makes a difference in someone’s life.  Every minute spent, every penny collected, every tear shed, every dollar donated.

Many that are unable to visit in person have made generous donations to our club for humanitarian efforts while we are there.  Needs are plentiful there, but resources are scarce.  We may not be able to help everyone at one time, but we have helped many – one at a time.

Back in 2007, a co-worker and friend Rob Calk slipped me $200 cash a few days before we left.  He said “do something cool with it” and left it at that.   On the way to our project each day, we passed a very “run-down” house, bound together with plastic tarps and cardboard.  Adjoining this “house” was a foundation for a new home similar to above, and that work had been abandoned.

We stopped and learned that the single mom and 4 kids were all alone.  Their Dad had been killed earlier in the year.  He had started a new home for them, and those hopes left with his death, until she could save the money to continue construction.  In our best attempt at Spanish, we asked the mother what it would cost to finish the house.  She knew exactly the cost of the supplies she needed, and said she had neighbors that would help her with volunteer labor.

She answered with the figure in Lempira, Honduras currency unit.  After running a few calculations, she needed $200 USD.  Unbeknownst to Rob, he had just financed the completion of a home in Honduras!

That evening back at the hotel, some of the others learned of what we did with Rob’s money and laughed at us.  They said we should have given it to an organization, or someone responsible to oversee.  They predicted Rob’s money would be used to throw a party.  I just looked and said – “Right now, a party might be more important than the house – whichever they decide to do is fine with us!”

The following year, we rode down this path….a completed house stood where the abandoned foundation had been just one year before.  The former house was now being used for storage and chickens.  The house had obviously won out over the party.  I do have before and after pictures, but just cannot find them to post.  Rob did get to see both, by the way!  The family was most appreciative too, and yes they remembered us immediately!

This year will identify more needs that we will address.  If you would like to donate a few discretionary bucks, just let me know as we leave Friday morning, February 1, 2013.   We promise that donations will not be spent on beer!

I can’t wait to document this year’s trip when we return, and also to share the news of another amazing story – a story how a young child from Honduras will be admitted to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital for major surgery upon our return – thanks to the efforts of Middle Tennesseans involved in our projects!  As of today, he and his mom have received their medical visas for the trip.  More to follow.

Until then, we’ll be down there doing what we can to help – one family at a time!

2012: Back to Honduras – Part 4 – The Long Ending!

One thing that we look forward to each year is interacting with the families we come in contact with each day.  Each morning we visit the local store to purchase our needs for the day, and we always purchase containers of rice, beans, sardines, and snacks for families that need a little break.  This year, our great friend Sid Neuhoff gave our “food fund” a great send-off and because of Sid, many added families were helped.  We look for Sid to visit Honduras with us one year!

This year, we did not come in contact with as many different families as we have in past years.  Our work this year was concentrated on one family in particular.  If you want to find a family in need, you don’t have to look very far.  David Hartley has a special “knack” for finding those that need it the most.

One evening, on the way back from the jobsite, David yells, “STOP RIGHT HERE!”  

After their home was demolished from flooding, the family assembled a structure to keep them out of the elements. One day, they will hopefully have something more substantial.

Inside, David found three children, with the oldest being four years old.  Mom and Dad were still working in the fields.  In this economy, you work whenever work is available.  We left what we had that evening, and stopped by again the next evening with more!

Hopefully we will be able to help this family even more on our next visit.  Their original home was washed away in October 2011, during the severe rains that resulted in catastrophic flooding of southern Honduras.  Many families were affected by flooding and have yet to recover.  If we all help a little bit, we can make a lot of difference.

As stated earlier, each year the circle of friends gets larger and we would like to visit everyone we know as well as our past projects each year, which can’t always happen.  This year, our friends from the Rotary Club of Choluteca joined us for dinner one evening at El Potrillo.  The staff at El Potrillo was excellent, as was the breakfasts and dinners we had there.

The Staff of El Potrillo. This is an excellent place to dine and a great place to stay while in Honduras.

We also enjoyed dinner several evenings with Teresa and her great staff at the Barcelona Hotel in San Marcos de Colon.  Their fried chicken is known all over southern Honduras!

Staff of the Barcelona Hotel in San Marcos de Colon, Honduras.

Ann and Sharon were able to visit Jayacayan, the site of last year’s project.  Jeremy and I were able to attend the Choluteca Rotary Club meeting Friday evening.  Our Tennessee District Governor, Dick Bowers, was also there as was the others representing Lawrenceburg Rotary Club, who coordinated this year’s effort.  

Meeting of the Choluteca Rotary Club.

By sneaking out of the Rotary meeting early, I was able to catch up with David Hartley and Keith Clodfelter who were having dinner with the Osotro family, that we have known for years.

The Osotro Family. Esther, MaMa, Carolina, Jose, and Michelle.

Each year, we look forward to taking a day off to explore.  Friday started off with a visit to downtown Choluteca and its many streetside vendors.

The streets of Choluteca Honduras

Ever wonder what happened to all of the Datsun B-210’s?  They are now taxi cabs in Choluteca.

At the straw market, you can find just about anything you would want, especially fresh fruit.

After a few hours in Choluteca, we headed to Coyolito, where we would catch a boat over to the island of Amapala, also known as “Isla de Tigre.” 

Supplies delivered to Coyolito for the ride over to Amapala.

We visited this island on last year’s trip and felt the need to see it again.  I have always said Amapala would be a great cruise ship port and I just learned that representatives from NCL, Carnival, and Princess Cruise Lines were on the island exploring that possibility the day before we were there!

We boarded the boat at Coyolito with Romario and who we will call Captain Smiley.  He never stopped smiling the entire day!

Coyolito, where you catch a water taxi to Amapala Island, shown in the distance.

The boat ride to the fishing village and restaurant is about 45 minutes.  I am not sure what the exact charge per person normally is, but we paid $100 US for all eight of us for the boat for the entire day. 

The fishing village and restaurant as seen from the Gulf of Fonseca.

I cannot remember, nor could pronouce the name of the beachside restaurant, but here it is.

Beachside Restaurant on Amapala Island, Honduras

The food was awesome!  Not only cooked to order, but caught to order.  Very possibly the best shrimp I have ever had.

Cleaning the day's catch on Amapala Island. From the boat to the skillet!

Huge portions too!

Fish and Shrimp combo, freshly caught and cooked while you wait.

Early Saturday morning, we left Choluteca for Tegucigalpa, anticipating extra traffic on Saturday morning.  The traffic was even worse than anticipated.  There was still time to enjoy a Big Mac inside the Tegucigalpa airport before our flight to Miami.

Mc Donalds inside Tegucigalpa airport

A long, great day seeing the sunrise in Choluteca, and the sunset in Miami.

It is truly amazing how many of the same places and same scenes can create different, yet wonderful memories year after year.  We will be returning to southern Honduras again next February, and who knows…maybe before.  If you would like to join us, or just participate financially, lending a helping hand in Honduras is a truly rewarding experience.

Trey Lewis is VP Sales & Marketing for Ole South Properties Inc, Tennessee’s largest independent home builder,  615.896.0019  direct 615.593.6340 or email TLewis@olesouth.com.  Specializing in new homes in the Greater Nashville area to include Nashville, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Clarksville, Gallatin, and Spring Hill, Tennessee.

2012 – Back to Honduras – Part 3 – The Work

After the brief visit to San Marcos de Colon, we arrived at this year’s job site mid-morning on Sunday, February 5th to find piles of rock, stacks of concrete block, and several mounds of sand and gravel to be used to construct the new home for Dania, Mario, and their family in El Carazal.

We were greeted by the two youngest children, standing at the door of the house we were going to replace.

Trenches for the foundation of the new home had already been dug, along with post holes for the re-bar supports.  Step one was to build the “footers” of the foundation with a mixture of large rocks and concrete.

In America, if we need something, we go to the local store and buy it.  Not so in Honduras…if you need something, you use what you have, or what is laying nearby on the ground.  For that reason, a local stone mason was hired to assist us this week for the sum of 300 lps each day, the equivalent of $15 US Dollars.  We called him “El Hefe,”  which can be translated as “boss.”

We also had the help of Evan, who is 13 and lives nearby.  Evan has never attended school and works every day to help meet his family’s needs.  Every morning and afternoon, he was seen carrying large bags of produce on his shoulders from the fields to a warehouse down the road.

Ann and Sharon spent the days teaching at school, which ends at 12:00 noon, allowing the older children to work in the fields.  After school, they kept the children at the jobsite occupied learning new things.

After the “footers” were complete, the foundation began to rise from the ground.

We kept waiting all week for the cement truck to show up.  It never did and all of the mortar was hand mixed.  A shovel-ready job!

Need more sand or gravel?   Just ask.  The sand and gravel for this job came from a nearby streambed on property belonging to Margarite – who we met on last year’s electrical project in Jayacayan.

Ronnie Strickland, the “grand-daddy” of our Honduran involvement, stopped by to lend a hand also.  When we leave, Ronnie will make certain the home gets totally completed.  By now, it is obvious we will only be able to complete the necessary block work during our time there.

We had many visitors during the week.  Leonardo, our friend from the Choluteca Rotary Club, was one of them.  It was great to see him again!

We also had some other distinguished guests drop by.  The batteries were dead on my camera so you will have to take my word for it.  Our current Rotary District Governor, Dick Bowers, along with Past District Governors Jimmy Couch and Jim Johnston visited our jobsite and offered much needed encouragement!  Because of their visit this year, we hope to see the return of larger Rotary projects in the future!

We also met Jonathan from Virginia, who has spent two years in Honduras teaching, and will be there another year.  He jumped in and helped us the entire week.

Building a house using concrete block is very hard work.  Thank goodness you have to stop and allow the mortar to dry every now and then!

By Thursday evening, ALL of the interior and exterior concrete block walls are in place!

Although we were not able to physically complete the entire home during our stay, we did leave Dania, Mario, and the family all of the materials they would need to finish their new home, and left enough money to pay Mr. “El Hefe” to assist in finishing the job.

Here are some more scenes from the job site:

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In the next part, we managed to visit with many friends and returned to places we had visited on previous trips.  Again, thanks for reading!

Trey Lewis is VP Sales & Marketing for Ole South Properties Inc, Tennessee’s largest independent home builder,  615.896.0019  direct 615.593.6340 or email TLewis@olesouth.com.  Specializing in new homes in the Greater Nashville area to include Nashville, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Clarksville, Gallatin, and Spring Hill, Tennessee.

2012 – Back to Honduras – Part 2 – Getting there, Getting around.

Humanitarian Aid is a major factor in the Honduran economy, and Middle Tennessee has a great presence there.  Churches, Rotary Clubs, Medical Brigades, and Educators all have an active presence.  Every time we have been, the plane is full of volunteers headed to Honduras.

Almost everyone on the Nashville – Miami flight was headed for a Honduras mission of some kind.  My dentist was on the same flight too!  He was traveling with his church to visit Mission Lazarus, a working ranch that houses many needy children and provides educational, spiritual, and medical support throughout southern Honduras.  CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.

Landing in Tegucigalpa is always an experience, no matter how many times you have been.  It used to be rated the most dangerous airport in the world.  Now it is #2.  The runway was extended.

After exiting the plane, going through immigration is a breeze.

Just outside the terminal building is Frederico at Friendship Car Rental.  Every year, we rent small diesel trucks for our journey at approximately $70/day.

These Nissan and Toyota diesel trucks are really neat!  It is a shame they are not available in the US or I would have one!

Tegucigalpa has everything you would expect to see in a capital city.  Even a Kentucky Fried Chicken, where we usually grab a meal before the ride to Choluteca.  We didn’t this year.  Chuck Payne wasn’t with us!

To reach Choluteca, we follow the Tegucigalpa Highway to the port city San Lorenzo and then take the Pan-American Highway to Choluteca, and onward to San Marcos de Colon, our final destination.

In October 2011, Honduras was devastated by heavy rains and flooding.  CLICK HERE for the story.  Landslides were frequent along the way, adding a lot of extra drive time… and sore spots from the many potholes!

It will be a long time before these highways are restored, and there are many other weak areas that might not withstand another heavy rainy season.  And there are always slide areas that just don’t ever get fixed!

These roads are dangerous enough and fatal accidents are very common.  Here is a memorial built alongside a bluff on the Pan American Highway in memory of the 35 children that died when their bus left the road in 1965.  CLICK HERE for the original article.  This memorial is 100 yards away from the home we built this year.

We arrived at Choluteca to meet Jim Johnston with the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club.  It was there that we learned we would not be staying at the Barcelona Hotel in San Marcos de Colon, as they were full.  A new place had opened up, El Potrillo, near Jayacayan.  They were expecting us.  I already knew where it was…so off we went.

We arrived at El Potrillo and got checked into our rooms, which were actually brand new cabins!  Although more pricey ($30 per person per night) than the Barcelona ($15), the accomodations were fantastic.  Breakfast was included in the rate as well, and it too was fabulous!

El Potrillo is a new weekend playground for residents of Choluteca to escape the heat.  It’s higher elevation features cooler nights (60’s) and days (low 80’s).  They have just completed (12) 3-bedroom cabins, and have a full restaurant and bar, swimming pool, fishing lake, horseback riding, event arena, and karaoke club.  We just used the cabins and the restaurant.  Every meal we had there was fantastic and the cabins were super nice, complete with rocking chair porches!

On Sunday morning, we ventured into San Marcos de Colon for church.  I didn’t understand all the words, but something was different about this service.  There was a box at the front of the church that appeared to be a casket.  Well, it was.  We were attending a funeral.

We then ventured to the Barcelona Hotel, knowing they would let us use their clean restrooms!  And what a surprise… the downstairs of Barcelona was now a full variety store, a mini-Wal-Mart.  It turns out it was actually owned by Wal Mart too.

Every year, the circle of friends gets bigger.  Many great relationships have formed over the years, and new ones created each year!   Stay tuned for Part 3!

Trey Lewis is VP Sales & Marketing for Ole South Properties Inc, Tennessee’s largest independent home builder,  615.896.0019  direct 615.593.6340 or email TLewis@olesouth.com.  Specializing in new homes in the Greater Nashville area to include Nashville, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Clarksville, Gallatin, and Spring Hill, Tennessee.