Number 11

June 2004

Dear Friends and Supporters,


It has been a long time since the last Update, and that's because we have been so so busy getting integrated into the communities here. We are currently involved in three distinct communities: first, our church community of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; next, the local community in the small town we live near, Luperon; and lastly, the slowly rotating community of boaters that pass through the harbor.

Of course, we have also begun our real work here, which is to help the poor of this country improve their economic lives through self-employment to become economically self-sufficient. There is a lot of the "self-" here, people supporting themselves, but very little "sufficient", almost no one has what we would consider even barely sufficient.

On that front, we have made a good start. To date we have made four micro-enterprise loans to individuals and families. One to a woman who wished to refurbish and unused room on her property so she could rent it out. Another to the owner of a "hole-in-the-wall" motorbike parts and repair shop to increase his inventory of the more costly (and more profitable) goods, such as tires. And the third to a supervisor on the docks to increase the capital of a impromptu "credit union" that he runs. And the forth as sort of "debt consolidation" loan to the owner of a "colmado" or "corner grocery" operated on a dirt road by a family with seven children - the oppressive interest he has been paying on several small loans forces him to keep his shop open on Sunday, when he would rather close.

The third requires a bit more explanation, as this loan is a bit outside of what we had envisioned for the project. The workers on the docks, the stevedores, are day workers, employed only a day at time. As such, they have incomes that vary week to week and have no access to normal credit. When a child gets sick, or the family car (a 20 year old Honda 50 cc motorbike) breaks down, they go to the moneylenders on the streets for the necessary cash. The moneylenders (read "loan sharks") are happy to lend the required 1000 pesos for the hospital ($25 US) at the very reasonable rate of up to 10 per cent per day. This debt becomes all consuming, eating up the income of the stevedore. To break this destructive cycle, our client, call him "Tomas", repays the loan shark debts of his workers (one at a time) and allows them to repay his "credit union" at humanitarian interest rates. To ensure repayment, "Tomas" stands at the payroll line each day and collects from the credit union borrowers as they receive their day's pay the agreed upon amount. The credit union members pay only when they work. If they don't pay, they don't work. "Tomas" started this with his own savings and came to us for capitalization to allow him to serve more of his oppressed workers.

Last night, we attended a "job training fair" in Santiago (the countries second largest city) sponsored by the church. There we met many people, including a representative of the countries "Secretariat of Employment" (rough translation) who was favorably impressed with the idea of our project (and, in that very Dominican way, offered to "smooth any bumps" for us in the future). We met five or six families there that are interested in loans to start or grow they family micro-enterprises -- a computer maker, a cake and pastry maker and a cheese maker, amongst others.

Sadly, almost everyone here needs or could use financial help. Credit is hard to get and expensive if one can get it. The normal business cycle is almost nonexistent here because of the credit situation. 95% of new businesses fail, most because of under capitalization or over enthusiasm (unreal expectations). Thus, you have the continuing situation of "those with money, make money".

It is not hopeless, a good business plan approached with realistic expectations and a willingness to work hard coupled with "a little help from your friends" (a Family-to-Family Project loan) can get a family on the road to success, or help them pick up speed along that road.

[By the end of the next month, we expect to have lent all the loan monies received so far. We will be out of the loan business without further commitments from families back home. We ask each of you , particularly those of you who have made loans, to ask your friends and neighbors if they'd like to help too. They can make donations or send money to loan via the web site using the "Donate Online" link in the drop down menus at the top.]

Cost of living comparisons:

   1. Repair of power steering. PARTS = US$ 25.00 (including custom made high pressure hose) LABOR = $12.00 (three hours)
   2. Part to repair motorcycle shift mechanism (chromed steel) = US$ 0.90
   3. Large ripe papaya (10 inches sphere) = US$ 0.50
   4. Ripe banana from a street vendor = US$ 0.03
   5. Plastic bottle of ice cold drinking water = US$ 0.25
   6. Plastic bag of cold clean drinking water (12 oz.) (sold like we sell juicy boxes) = US$ 0.05
   7. 1000 gallons clean water (deep well - suitable for cooking), delivered to your home = US$ 8.00
   8. Interest on short term loan - 60 days = 200%
   9. Import duty on manufactured goods = 30%
  10. Warm smile and "best friends forever" = free for the asking


Sort of a cross between New York City driving at its worst and amusement park bumper cars (except the cars are not allowed to touch each other). Throw in a million small motor scooters and motorbikes, each with two or three passengers and you begin to get some idea. For Dominican's, the phrase "traffic rules" is an oxymoron. There simply are no rules. Lanes, speed limits, one-way signs, traffic signals, no passing zones, and even "which side of the street to drive in which direction" are all alike suggestions or general guidelines for other drivers. For oneself, they don't apply at all.

We tried to take pictures of this, but couldn't get out of the confusion far enough to get an illustrative image. At one point, at a major intersection, we counted six flows of traffic, interlaced. And that was only counting one of the major roads leading into the intersection.

One of the great mysteries here is what I call "Faith in the Horn". It works like this: a driver is approaching an intersection, through which cars and motorbikes are hurtling with wild abandon. Since the driver doesn't want to stop, and doesn't want to be killed, he blows his horn and continues through the intersection, confident that because he blew his horn, all will be well. This works when passing on a blind curve, just pull out and blow the horn and, miraculously, you don't get killed. Well, it works often enough that the people here seem to believe it.

To be fair, it isn't that the local drivers totally ignore the traffic lights. The fact is that 90% of the traffic lights don't work at all (no lights showing ever). The other 10 % are spread out over the other available options: disfunction, malfunction, burnt out bulbs, only work when the electricity is on, and most surprisingly, an intersection where the lights works exactly as we expect.

On the country roads, single lane paved roads, built in the 80's and never repaired, no lanes painted on them, killer potholes, no lights. Nothing is darker than a dark country road here. One bombs along at a good clip, comes around a curve or over a hill, and there, parked taking up 1/2 the road, is a pickup or minibus, driver chatting with someone along the side of the road. Waves and smiles as you panic swerve around the obstruction, missing by inches.

On the other hand, if two cows are being herded down the road by a guy on a donkey, he'll have a fellow on a motorbike drive ahead and wave a red flag at the approaching cars to slow down. Apparently, cows are more valuable than human life.

The best form of transportation here is the motorbike, as long as you stay out of the city center. The are small, slow, and maneuverable. Not very comfortable in the rain.


We had cold weather the day before yesterday. That is to say, the temperature dropped below 75 degrees F for several hours. Generally, it is hot and dry, or hot and rainy. Occasionally, both on the same day. We are right on the north coast (for those of you with atlases, we are at N 19°53.949' W 70°57.261') and get lots of breeze, but do have some rather hot humid days, and lots of hot and humid nights.


The campo is the countryside. It is beautiful and green. The hills start up right at the coast and climb into the interior. Rugged hills and serene valleys. Royal palms mixed in with grassy pasture. Lime trees grow wild. Cattle and dairy cows in the pastures. Orchards and banana patches.

This is a agrarian society. Farming and ranching are the major industries. Lots of cattle, dairy, and lots and lots of sugar cane. Farm and ranch owners have nice houses and SUVs. Farm and ranch workers live in small wooden houses with thatched roofs and walk or ride motor bikes, occasionally horses, donkeys, mules and burros. Others who live in the countryside may not work at all. Many have basically nothing - no possessions to speak of, little furniture, a change or two of clothes, and lots of children. Unfortunately, many of these houses are in such poor condition, if they were on our property in NY state, we wouldn't want to store our lawn tractors in them.

We are working with another group to see how we can best help the poorest of the poor in the campo.


Make a Family-to-Family loan. These small loans, which will be "recycled" to help others as they are paid off, are bringing so much hope to the families they are going to. In a month we will have exhausted the pre-pledged and funded loans, so we really need more lending families. The most common loan is five hundred dollars. The quickest way to help is to make money for a loan available to us through the "Donate Online" link on our web site or directly at this link:


Ola to all our faithful friends and family all over the world. We are alive and well as another day passes in paradise. Well, not really paradise when you take a close look, but from afar the green hills, beautiful skies and waving palms could fool you.

We are trying hard to change our names from "Gringos" to Dominicanos by swimming at the Dominican beach, eating "pastillos" from the street vendor and driving crazy per above description (Kip, that is). My long blond braid and pale face are a distinct disadvantage to establishing our new identity, but Kip's darkened arms, neck and face make him a likely candidate. Speaking of skin color, one finds the apparently universal myth of whiter is better quite alive down here. All the stars on TV are pale. The President could be mistaken for a guy on the insurance board in NY. In the rich sections of town (yes there are such, not Everyone is dirt poor) one finds the pale skin and "good hair". Its quite odd how its works out this way. But here one can find every shade of color from midnight black Haitian to beautiful cinnamon with blue eyes, to the aristocratic white skin of the pure Spanish descent.

The two things I find most annoying in an underdeveloped country are the roads and lack of nice bathrooms. Atrocious is too kind for most of what pass for roads here. There is just no maintenance and driving down one traces a squiggly line as one swerves here and there to miss huge potholes or whole sides of the road washed out. It is hilarious to find a road with all the cement washed away, eroded to ruts and mounds with the speed bumps still intact. One has to creep along at 5 mph to avoid leaving the underside of the car on the road to begin with. That's why we drive a 4 wheel trooper type tank. And I do miss a well appointed bathroom I must admit. Mostly we have a bowl with water in it as a toilet, no seat, no flush, no paper and no washing up. Oi vey! Of course there is plumbing but I usually have to go when there is no electricity and no water running.

Enough complaining already. Truth is its kind of exciting driving on these roads. I've had my lovely bathrooms and will probably again someday.I have found the Dominicans to be really fine, hardworking, warm people. With little attention put on material things they have lots of time for family, friendships and just being happy people.Although they work hard, they dont have many modern conveniences if you can imagine.The abusive use of credit cards is much less than in USA My friends in the church and in Luperon are working very hard to make ends meet with wife and husband both earning and often a second enterprise on the side. Building material is extremely expensive so people live in what we would consider substandard housing. They take three or more years to build a house, buying a few blocks here and there until its done AND paid for. But they send their kids to university when they can. There are wealthy, gated communities I have discovered but they are rare and very beautiful. The norm is dirt floor, tin roof, especially in the country. Mostly there is a lot of activity going on; alternately one sees a fair amount of still life. Just sitting and waiting for an opportunity to come round. Or just someone to say hello to and share the beautiful burden of life.

Our family has expanded to include two parakeets. Jon keeps them in upside down laundry baskets in his cabin. The birds are chirping away. I have also begun my on board garden with some lovely blooms:I was promised "siempre flores" meaning always has flowers, which is almost a rose garden, a reference for you literati. Jon is gone most of the time now being very busy with his new enterprise of room service to the boats from the restaurant. They call in and he delivers via motorcycle and dinghy. He is quite the entrepreneur, launching a second enterprise of selling tee-shirts soon. He has little need for parents at this stage of the game. I'm reaping what I sowed as a youth: OUCH.OUCH.OUCH.

Our project is expanding day by day. Now that word has spread we already have more requests than we can supply. Mostly people want to expand their enterprises : for example one woman runs an upholstery business from her home but has no place to actually work or show people her stuff. Another sister makes and delivers hundreds of lunches to factory workers from her small business location. She also wants to expand. and hire more people. Borrowing from a bank or street lender with suicidal interest rates is not really an option. The loans we have made so far have made many people happy, including getting out of a terrible debt situation. Families here are gaining appreciation for their brothers and sisters in the USA who are generously helping. We really have so many opportunities and privileges in the USA its hard to imagine being without them unless you see an underdeveloped country like the DR. Support systems are virtually non-existent.

Gave a talk in Spanish in our branch last Sunday. The President asked me to do it the night before! Now tell me Heavenly Father does not help us when we need it! I now have my piano installed at the Branch and am playing for our meetings. I am extremely happy and thankful that we accomplished this feat, getting over hurdles of customs and transport all in due time. The members are so pleased to have music. Jon attended his first Spanish Seminary and was not impressed. Looks like Spanish lessons are in order for all of us as the cute pidgin a few words here and there stage is definitely over. I want to talk to people and understand what they say in more than a 4 year old's sentence structure. Just happened to walk into a little burrito shop along the side of a road and who should we find running the place but a disaffected Jack Mormon from Utah.We invited him to church. And he thought he had run far enough away. Ha!

So someone recently asked if the sacrifice was worth it. Being able to help families is worth it. Expanding my family of saints and friends is worth it. Overcoming the odds is worth it. Finding lost sheep is worth it. Learning to trust God is worth it. Working with Kip is worth it. I miss people but have the hope we will meet again and that, my friends, is the brightness before me. It may not be the other side of heaven yet but we're working on it. Love you all.


[As Arden has said, Jon is VERY busy growing up. Having been a full crew member of the boat as we travelled, Jon grew to expect to receive full adult treatment. After all, we had trusted him with our very lives at sea. So, he has gone through about 2 years of "teenager" already since we've been here. After finishing his sailing dinghy, he has mostly abandoned it for the large motored dinghy belonging to the owners of the Summertime Yatch Club (really just a restaurant). After working there for a couple of weeks, he suggested they start meal deliveries to the boats in the harbor to increase income (after six days of rain had kept most customers on their boats). His suggestion was enthusiastically accepted by the young couple that runs business and now the town is adorned with signs advertising "Room Service - Call VHF Channel 74". Next I think there is the t-shirt business. Jon has a 100 cc motorbike and a bright red helmet. With his blond curls, he wows the local girls leaving them fainting on the streets of Luperon. Those of you who are parents can imagine the problems that come with having a 15 year old (on May 1st) who considers himself an adult. ]

Our best wishes to you all,

Let us hear from you,

The Hansens

Kip, Arden, and Jonathan Hansen


The Family-to-Family Project

c/o Kip and Arden Hansen

153 Malden Tpke

Saugerties, NY 12477

(845) 246 0131 (home - messages)

We no longer have USA cell phone service. All communication to us must be:

1) BEST = via e-mail at

2) via the "Contact Us" page on our web site at (the comment section is limited to just 256 characters)

3) via postal mail sent to our Saugerties address -- Kip, Arden and Jon Hansen, The Family-to-Family Project, 153 Malden Tpke, Saugerties, NY 12477. Mail is forwarded to us periodically (and not received here dependably).


4) Cell phone 1 809 386 3356 (dial just like any other US area code).


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