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 – 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 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.

2012 – Back to Honduras – Part 1

Every February, workers representing various Rotary Clubs throughout District 6760 converge on the Choluteca region of southern Honduras.  There have been many projects over the past ten-plus years, most of which have been dedicated to improving life in remote villages through the addition of electrical and fresh water systems to the homes.  All of these projects are organized in conjunction with the Rotary Club of Choluteca, Honduras.

Projects like these require a lot of labor and a tremendous amount of money – money that has to be raised.  Sources of funding range from Rotary Clubs, Rotary International Grants, individual donations, Honduran Municipalities, and the residents themselves.

There is no secret that our country’s economy has been in recession, which has made it very difficult to raise money.  This year’s project was coordinated by Jim Johnston and the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club with a focus on providing electricity to approximately 28 homes, a small school, and a church in the remote village of Limon de Linaca. 

There was not enough funding available this year for a larger electrical or water project, but there was enough left over to build a home for a local family near El Carazal…. which is where our group entered the program this year.  “Extreme Home Makeover – Honduran Style.”

Participating on behalf of Spring Hill Rotary Club this year were Jeremy Bisceglia, International Service Chair, Pastor Ann Bassett, Sharon Elvin, Les Bosarge, David Hartley, Eddie Hartley, Keith Coldfelter, and Trey Lewis.

While we were digging, mixing cement, and laying block, Ann and Sharon spent their days teaching at the local school.  Ann is fluent in Spanish, which helped a LOT!

 

The children were so attentive and well-behaved.  They also learned an amazing amount of English during the week!

We even served as a school bus for several children.  When they reach where they need to stop, they just beat on the roof.

While the children were at school, the dogs kept an eye on the jobsite.

There will be more highlights of this year’s trip forthcoming.  How we got there, where we stayed, what we ate, the work that was involved, the friends we have made over the years, and more will be covered so stay tuned!

Thanks for reading!  If you would like a recap of our 2011 trip to Honduras, CLICK HERE

For now, why not take a look at some of the animals we befriended on our visit:

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.

 

 

Election 2012: NO MAS! (at least for a little while)

That’s right, NO MORE blog posts about politics…. at least not for a little while!   Well, maybe just one more thing…..

I am really sick of hearing about how bad Warren Buffett feels about not paying enough taxes.  If he really wants to pay more, he should.  He does everything else that he wants to do.

What makes me madder is the comparison projected to world that his secretary pays a higher percentage of her income in taxes than he does.  I am sure without a doubt that is the truth.

I also am sure of something else.  If she wanted to open her own business and risk her own capital, she too could pay a lesser percentage.  Considering the braintrust she is surrounded by, I am certain she has many opportunities to take chances.

She makes the choice to pay more percentage in taxes.  Don’t feel sorry for her.  By the way, everyone has that opportunity as well!

OK, I’m done now.

For the next week, I’ll be in southern Honduras with other Middle Tennessee Rotarians from District 6760 on our annual “mission” trip.  This year, in addition to bringing electricity to remote villages, we will be helping families build back homes that were lost in last year’s hurricane season.

This will be my sixth year to participate in the project.  This year, eight of us will be going on behalf of the Rotary Club of Spring Hill.  Two of us are representing Ole South Properties also.  We’ll even get to watch the Super Bowl broadcasted in Spanish again.  Oh joy!

To read of last year’s trip, CLICK HERE 

Several have criticized me for posting a blog about being out of town and leaving Beth vulnerable.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  She has a gun, and this year, a vicious dog.  “Ain’t nothin gonna happen!”

P.S.  I hope it is cold and snows while we are gone.   :0)

Nashville New Homes: Shine on Honduras – Part 5 – Our work is done!

We had such a productive week and our time in Honduras was coming to an end.  As soon as the main electrical transmission lines can be installed and activated, the village of Jayacayan will have electricity in their homes.   This would not happen if it were not for the efforts of Past-District Governor Jim Johnston, the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club, along with other Rotary Clubs throughout our District 6760 and their members.  We also appreciate the support of our current District Governor, Jim Springer with this project.

Special thanks to the Rock Harbor Yacht Club for their generous donation also.  These funds were used by Keith Clodfelter to purchase basic staples, food, and other necessities for the families of Jayacayan.

The real credit for our successful trips go to Carolina Tercero and Ronnie Strickland.  In 2007, Ronnie received the distinguished “Service Above Self” award from Rotary International.  Read about his dedication here:  http://www.williamsonherald.com/home?id=42745

Carolina has a heart of gold and is always searching for those most in need.  Without her involvement, we would never know some of these areas existed.  Their continued efforts make our week pale in comparison.  Thank you both!

Ronnie Strickland has identified another remote village for a future project, Las Delicias, in the mountains of Honduras near SanFrancisco.  Construction of basic housing appears to the the primary need there, which is something any group can assist with – no matter how big or small.  Ronnie was able to take Tom (Boone) and Zane to visit LasDelicias to witness the need first hand. 

In most of the villages, the children are happy.  This sweet child in LasDelicias is scared.  We are going to work on changing that!  Ronnie is already working to build a new solid home for this family and construction has begun.  Check out Boone’s pictures:  http://www.bgapix.com/Travel/Honduras-for-Paper/15838091_xJ7Gv#1186344808_HXFJG  and you will see many from LasDelicias.

Boone also made the extra effort to put our memories of the week to music.  

If you would like to become involved personally or financially (or both) in future projects in Honduras, please let me, or any of us, know.  We can not change the world, but we can change lives – one at a time.

Saturday morning we said our good-byes to the gracious staff of the Barcelona Hotel in San Marcos de Colon.  We will stay there again! 

On previous trips, we would always take off from working early one evening and go to the southern coast on Honduras to relax, see the water, and eat fresh seafood at Cedeno, on the Gulf of Fonseca – which leads to the Pacific Ocean.  Every time we were there, I was intrigued by a huge island in the distance, Amapala – and its history.

This year, we worked longer hours to finish our work in order to spend a day on Amapala Island, or Isle de Tigre (Tiger Island) as it is also called.   We arrived at the mainland village of Coyolito, approximately 2.5 hours after leaving Hotel Barcelona, to catch a water taxi to the island.  None of us had ever been there.  We knew nothing about what we wanted to see there, but the boat drivers kept insisting to know where we wanted them to take us on the island.   While pointing to the island, I finally said “Frio Cervasa, Pollo Frita, Pescado, Camerones”  (cold beer, fried chicken, fish, and shrimp).  They laughed and motioned for us to get in the boat.  Life jackets were “optional” by the way.

The boat ride from Coyolito over to Amapala was just what we needed.  The weather was perfect!

Amapala has a rich history.  It was the Pacific Port of Honduras from the early 1800’s before moving to San Lorenzo and was once the capital city of Honduras.  It is surrounded by El Salvador and Nicaraugua with amazing views of the gulf.  I’ve never been to Maui, but many compare similarities with both being once-volcanic areas.  I guess that explains the dark brown sand and black rocks!

Slowly but surely, Amapala is gaining in tourist popularity.  Evidence of 18th century affluency is still present.  There are several resorts popping up around the island.  We too found a great place!  I cannot remember the name, but the food was great – except they did not have fried chicken!

No one needs to be told that is the fish plate. Just don’t ask what kind of fish it was.  No one knew!   Check out the shrimp that was simply incredible – all of it fresh!

A crowd gathered down at the beach and I just had to go see what the commotion was all about:

Did you know that stingray meat is used for scallops in many restaurants?  I didn’t.   This thing was HUGE!

Here are just some of the scenes from our day at Amapala Island:

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Sunday morning we left early for the capital city of Tegucigalpa.  Remember, this is the two lane road that many have mistaken for four lanes!  We did arrive safely, but only after Pastor Ann and Huntly negotiated the purchase of some hammocks at a roadside store.

We turned in the rental trucks to Frederico at Friendship Car Rental, checked in for our flight, and ate a ceremonial Big Mac in the airport.  The flight from Tegucigalpa to Houston left on time and was very smooth.  When arriving in Houston, we had to claim our bags, go through US Customs, and then procede to our connecting flights.

If you ever want to get a laugh from a US Customs Official, hand him one of these instead of your passport:

    Thanks for reading about this year’s adventure!  I hope you found it somewhat enjoyable and will want to participate with us in the future!

Trey Lewis is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the State of Tennessee with Ole South Realty, 615.896.0019  direct 615.593.6340.  Specializing in new home sales in the Greater Nashville area to include Nashville, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, and Spring Hill, Tennessee

Nashville New Homes: 2011 – The Year of the New Home.

For the past several years, those bearing bad news have held a firm grip on the microphone.   After all, they had a lot of negative things to report, so lets not blame them.   Bad news does sell.  And people do buy it…that is, until they have heard enough!

Since the first of January, I have been asking prospective home buyers a question…. “If you had purchased 60 days ago, you could have saved a little bit more money.  Interest rates have edged up slightly, even though they are still at record lows.  Just what has made you come out to explore now?”  (Please keep in mind that these prospective buyers are among the NINETY PERCENT of people that still have jobs in this country.)

 The responses are very much the same across the board.  “I’m hearing more positive news, I feel good about my job, and I know my rent will probably go up next year.”   OR …  “We’re getting closer to retirement and probably won’t have another chance to buy with interest rates this low.”

Folks, the “bearers of good news” are now getting their time at the microphone!   And the message is getting across.  It is certain, and sad, that many Americans are still without work.  The NINETY PERCENT that still work will be the ones that turn this economy around, and help put those unfortunate ones back to work.  If we truly want that to happen, we’ve got to communicate positive news whenever possible.

Let’s take a look at the good news that is now circulating…..

http://www.inman.com/news/2011/01/27/real-estate-sales-rebound-in-2011-prices-nearly-flat

We all know that the price of things are a simple result of “supply and demand.”  We all know that there is a finite supply of land… there’s just not any more of it being made.  Here’s another opinion of why now is the time to buy:

http://realestate.msn.com/article.aspx?cp-documentid=23505825

I can tell you that our sales have picked up dramatically and our inventory of completed homes is being snatched up quickly in many areas.  WE ARE BUILDING MORE!  Please visit www.OleSouth.com for information on all of our new home neighborhoods in Middle Tennessee.

No two pieces of property are the same, and no two areas are alike.   You have got to weigh the “risk vs. reward” and at the same time keep in mind that you are buying a home first, and investment second.  And the most important part…. you will one day own it, something you cannot say for your apartment. 

Things are looking better for the housing industry, but at the same time we also have to be realistic, as you can read here:

  http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2011/01/new-home-sales-increase-in-december.html

From a person that specializes in selling new homes, there is a good chance you will always hear … “now is the time to buy.”   We are not trying to be intentionally misleading.  In most cases, compared to renting, “anytime is a good time to buy, but some times are better than others.”  Feel free to quote me on that!

How things are really does depend how you choose to look at things.  I prefer optimism over pessimism anyday.

One thing I can say factually, there is a small village in southern Honduras, near Choluteca, that will soon be looking at their homes in a totally different light….actual light…. at night!  They will also have access to filtered drinking water for their homes, and a more healthy cooking stoves thanks to District 6760 of Rotary International.

Read more about our upcoming trip here:

https://nashvillehomesblog.com/2011/01/19/nashville-new-homes-assafartay-is-going-to-honduras/

There will more than likely not be any blog posts until I return, but you can count on quite a few recaps then!  Many people warn about posting travel information online, and for very valid reasons.  I have a few valid reasons not to worry about that:  A great home security system, a wife that is proficient with guns, and good insurance.  Bring it on!

Happy Buying & Selling in 2011.  It really can be the “Year of the New Home.”  YOURS!

Trey Lewis is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the State of Tennessee with Ole South Realty, 615.896.0019  direct 615.593.6340.  Specializing in new home sales in the Greater Nashville area to include Nashville, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, and Spring Hill, Tennessee