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Rising out of Poverty

In 1999, several of us went to a very remote spot in rural Honduras. The Agalta Valley was essentially untouched by outside world. There were several reasons. First, it was an eleven-hour trip from the capital city of Tegucigalpa, mostly through treacherous mountain dirt roads. Natives called the road through the mountains the “Corridor of Death” because of banditos and other perceived dangers. Also, the legend of the “Lost City of the Monkey Gods” claimed at anyone entering the area would die. Even the motto of the state of Olancho suggested danger, “Come if you wish, leave if you can.” In short, very few outsiders were willing to come and provide help to people living in small mountain villages without running water, electricity or indoor plumbing. There was plenty of work that an outside group of caring people could do.

Soon, an annual spring trip to rural Honduras became the official international project of the Rotary Club of Atlanta. A non-profit support organization was formed called HAVE Foundation (Honduras Agalta Valley Education) that primarily focused on building and supporting schools where there were no schools. The approach was simple. Visit to meet the people and assess their needs, raise the funds to help them have access to knowledge that only any education can provide and support healthcare efforts. Universally, people appreciate anyone helping them with better education and health.

On the first trip, youngsters asked about their dreams for the future struggled to answer. A great job would be a truck driver, but there were only a couple of trucks in the valley. Today, youngsters the same age dream of being doctors, lawyers, scientists, teachers and starting their own businesses. Much of that is because of the work of members of the Rotary Club of Atlanta.

There is now a beautiful school system, equally as good as most in the U.S. Medical care is available. In fact, the covid vaccination rate in the Agalta Valley is 82%, much higher than in Georgia. That is only an example.

The group that started with about eight people now is an annual trip of 60. Last month, the group was the first in the valley in two years. Many of our members have seen the evolution of the schools and the improved lives as they have evolved over two decades, and all recognize that life there is far better because of the work they do. The trip that is designed to help the people of Honduras is often said to help members of the group even more, to understand that people in this remote rural area are far more like them than they are different. Friendships for a lifetime are formed with the Hondurans as well as the team members.

The typical international project of a Rotary Club is one grant provided to an organization in a developing country and a group from the sponsoring Rotary Club visiting to see how the funds will be spent. It is a one- time visit, and any project seldom runs for more than two or three years.

Our international project has evolved over two decades. Students who previously had no schools have now graduated from college. Beautiful and effective schools have been built and the curriculum continues to improve. Medicines have been delivered that fill the clinic pharmacies for a year. Kilns have been built for making bricks and tiles. Sewing machines have been purchased for teaching a markable skill. A computer lab was installed that opened the valley up to the outside world. A chemistry lab was stocked. Over 1,000 water filtering units were installed in mountain homes. Bridges have been built. Hundreds of cement floors were installed. The list goes on and on. The work of Atlanta Rotary has lifted people from survival to a stable life of opportunity. Along the way, our club has funded computers, replaced roofs, funded landscaping and several other special needs. But mostly, our members work alongside the Hondurans and build trust and friendships.

Each year there is a fundraiser called Honduras Hope that raises the money to fund the schools, combined with individual scholarships provided by many of our members.

The best way to experience the joy of doing something special for people is to join the trip. The next trip is March 4-11, 2023. Just tell any of our members who participate that you are interested – Bob Hope, Clark Dean, John Lucht, David Lewis, David Allison, Mike Passilla, Jeff Adams, Dave Moody, Gray Campbell, David Duke, Tim Gunter, Paul Morris, among others.


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