Number 12

January 2005

Dear Friends and Supporters,


We are alive, well, and the Project is very successful. (See Arden's section of this update for more details on the Project.)

This has been some year!

Our apologies to all those who actually read these updates -- we have been very negligent in getting this update out, in fact, it has been over six months since the last one.

This shouldn't be all that much of a surprise to those who have served in the Peace Corps, served a mission with the Church, or have thrown themselves into a complicated project in a foreign country. Or, for that matter, to Weather Channel junkies (who will have followed tropical storms roaring through our region all summer). Arden and I have been living in four different cultures or communities now for the last nine months, five if you count Arden's trip "home" to Saugerties, NY. As demands of a single culture can be overwhelming, you might guess what it is like keeping up with four.

What are they? OK, here ya go:

1) Cruising World.     This is made up of the world's adventurous misfits in love with sailing (mostly, there are some motor-cruisers who occasionally sail). Luperon, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic boasts of THE absolutely best "hurricane hole" (a harbor offering safety and protection from hurricanes) in the northern Caribbean. At any one time, there are from 60 to 150 sailboats in the harbor, 60-80% of them occupied most of the time (the others are simply anchored and awaiting the return of their absent owners.)

This sub-culture places a lot of demands on us:

social demands -- visiting other sailing couples and families, dinner ashore, chatting with our dinghies tied together floating through the harbor, attending weddings, birthdays, pot luck dinners, and occasionally "sailor's beach church".

mutual safety demands -- Life at sea is a dangerous activity. Getting a serious leak in the roof or breaking a "window" can be life threatening under the worst conditions. The sea and the weather spend their constant energies trying to get inside the boat. If either is too successful, the boat sinks. Further, the sea literally eats everything allowed to fall into it (and seems to have a "magnetic" attraction for tools, cell phones, flashlights, boat parts, and the occasional piece of clothing off the clothesline) and attempts to digest (through salt water corrosion) things even vaguely near it (which includes every single item on the boat).

Our home (the S/V [sailing vessel] Golden Dawn) is vaguely held in place on the planet by a piece of rope that connects to a length of steel chain that is, in turn, connected to a rather hefty engine block, more chain and a 200-lb naval anchor. The engine block and anchor are sunk in ten feet of oozy mud at the bottom of the harbor, never to see the light of day again. Depending on tide and wind, we are located somewhere within or along the circumference of the circle scribed by the rope and chain. The "ground" our house rests on not only is fervently and constantly attempting to swallow us, but it tends to rock and roll and sometimes flies up and in the "windows". If our house "drags anchor" (comes loose and escapes the aforementioned circle), it bangs into the rocks on the shore or into someone else's "house" (and vice-versa if someone else gets loose).

All of us "cruisers" here live under the same conditions and threats. We all look out for one another's boats and try to help one another with the untold number of problems that can come up when the "homeowner" has to supply his own electricity, water, sewage system, electrical distribution system, and care for at least one diesel engine (we have three), at least one outboard motor (its a long way to row without it, for this reason, we have three, one of which is usually lent out while someone repairs their own), a diesel generator, and one or more small boats (we have three - for reasons that are not exactly clear even to us).

As I mentioned, Luperon is the best "hurricane hole" in the northern Caribbean. We had three "near misses" this hurricane season, one actually hit the island of Hispanola (which the Dominican Republic shares with Haiti), and was only thirty miles offshore to the north at its closest approach. On a scale of 1 to 10 of the worst places to be when a hurricane hits, "on a small sailboat at anchor" rates a 9.8 (9.9 is "on a small sailboat at sea in the direct path of the eye", ten being ditto but swimming in the ocean). As Arden was in New York visiting the boys (and recovering from an accident she had up there, see her section of this update), I prepared the boat (a very strenuous task) and sat through the three hurricane incidents by myself. (On request, I will send my "hurricane log" of the closest hit to anyone who is interested). As you can guess, hurricane season brings its own special set of demands.

2) Village of Luperon.    We live in the harbor of this small village. You should be able to find it on any map of the Caribbean. It is on the north coast of the island of Hispanola, about 50 nautical miles east of the DR/Haitian border and 15 miles west of Puerto Plata. For you navigators and other members of the National Geographic society, we are rather precisely at N 19º53.864' W 070º57.246'. Those co-ordinates place you within ten feet or so of the Golden Dawn.

We have lots of Dominican friends and share the same relationship with them as you do with your neighbors. We are the "Mormons", so we have special obligation to set an example and to share our understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ with the people here. There is a lot of visiting on the street as one passes through the village. It is a great insult not to stop a chat with every single acquaintance and friend along the way. As a result, it can take an hour to walk the three blocks to the grocery store. If we are in a hurry, we take the back street! I answer computer questions and help with other "technical" things. The people here call me "El Capitan" either because I am captain of the Golden Dawn or because, with my now shorter white hair and beard, I look something like the movie version of captain of the Titanic. Arden, with her fair skin and long blond hair, riding her small folding bike gets a lot of attention. Two Dominican families now ride an hour to church with us each Sunday.

[Oh, did I mention we have an old beat up Izusu Trooper? This makes us one of the only cruisers that have a car. None of our Dominican friends in Luperon have cars. The only real supermarkets, hospitals, full-line hardware stores, and boat engine repair shops are an hour away in Puerto Plata. Guess who is popular?]

3) Our Church.    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is strong, vigorous and growing like mad here in the DR. That means there is plenty of church related work and activity for Arden and I. Arden plays her piano (it rode down with us in the boat) for services every Sunday and gets asked to play for regional events as well. We both have "jobs" in our local congregation. And, naturally, as the Church is a great big family, we have the opportunity of sharing loads of family activities with our Dominican brothers and sisters. All of this takes place an hour's drive away (longer when it is raining, like now, again/still, tonight). Because the nearest congregation is an hour away, we are not encouraged to proselyte here in Luperon. Despite this, one family of five has already converted and a second family will be baptized within the month. Non-Mormon Dominicans approach us and ask us if they can please ride to the Mormon church with us. It is hard to say no. I suspect there will be a small branch of the Church here before the end of the year.

4) Work & nbsp;   Our project works with over thirty families in three major cities, as well as with the Church's national Employment Resource Center in the capital, Santo Domingo. At first, we tried to make monthly visits to each of the families but eventually found this just too much. We have taken steps to reduce this workload by turning this visiting over to a local Volunteer Project Director in each city. We will oversee the Project and evaluate new petitions.

These four communities tug us this way and that, often competing for our limited time and energies (at our ages, we have more time than energy). We are blessed with all the rewards to be had from serving others in this beautiful tropical country.

We appreciate you, your prayers and your support. Every dollar donated (plus a lot more of our own) has gone directly to loans to help Dominican families. These families value and honor the trust you have placed in them and are embarrassingly grateful.

At this time, despite the number of families asking for a hand up, we have no more funds to expand our client-family base. If you know of anyone who might be willing to help a family here, by making a donation to the Family-to-Family Project, please direct them to our web site at

May God bless you and yours with his choicest blessings.


Well its a brand new year and we want to wish all our friends and even our enemies the best. We have been silent for awhile but are not lost down here in Luperon. Our biggest New Year's blessing is our new grandchild, Shantalya, who was born 30 Dec in San Juan, Puerto Rico weighing in at 5.5 lbs. We plan to visit Mina and her little girl in the coming months, sailing over in our portable house.

We have been very busy this year establishing the Family-to-Family Project. We are currently helping over thirty families to have a better life through self-employment and self sufficiency. Recently we entered into Phase II wherein we select a local volunteer to oversee the project in an established city and then we move on to open up a new area. Since no donor has asked for the return of their loan money, the loan repayments can be recycled into new loans by these volunteers. We try to encourage a fast turnover such as 9 months so more can benefit from the small loans. The waiting line is stretches out.

The newest area is San Francisco de Macoris, a city in the central Cibao valley. It is rich farming land and we hear mostly owned by resident Italians, Israelis and Spaniards. Not verified yet. The Stake President (leader of the church in an area) has invited us there as many are waiting for the blessing we offer. It is a three plus hour car ride from Luperon.One borrower is starting a iron working shop. Another is expanding his small cafeteria. Many are amazed at the good fortune come their way and that families in the United States and other countries are helping strangers from a foreign land.

Five people have already completed their loan payments and three of these have taken out another loan. Having this economic boost is a great help to many people in the area, even though it seems small to those of us with more opportunity. They can do more with their lives and it shows them that others in the world care and want to share.It reduces the hopelessness that haunts so many on the economic front.

The biggest success was a woman who borrowed to make imitation designer perfume and sell it at reasonable prices. She paid off her loan in two months with her profits! We have helped other women with small shops or door-to-door sales ventures. One lady makes fine jewelry in her home shop after working all day at another job. She bought a polisher with the loan. Its gratifying to help these women become more self sufficient and enable them to improve their families economic wellbeing.

One gentleman started a local van transportation business. When we returned a few months later his wife has sewn lovely covers for all the furniture cushions and prettied up the house. It was great to see this progress. Keep in mind there is no indoor plumbing is such an abode, which was built by the hands of the husband and wife.

Thank you all for your support and sharing in the success of the project. With three areas under cultivation we feel the Family-to-Family "Garden" is growing well. At this point we can not open up any more areas without more funds.

As for life in the DR, it would not be possible without my "batidas". Theses are fruit shakes I make with my Vita-Mix. Their content is limited only by imagination. Recently I have added avocado and peanuts to the already lush menu of papaya, pineapple, bananas and zapote.(Not all at the same time). We also eat a lot of rice and beans and chicken, Peanuts have been a lifesaver. Kip sometimes feels junk food deprived but solves that with an the extravagance of a candy bar.

Our car was broken for month while a new transmission was put in, taken out, another put in after a long search for it. After many pesos and frustrations later we once again are on the road. Since not any of our friends in Luperon have a car we are invited to take them to visit distant relatives. We took one friend to see her 26 year old sister who has AIDS. This was not a happy event but I did get a chance to take a four generation picture which amused the family. Another day we took a family to see their extended family way out in the country, which turned out to be 10 brothers and sisters and all their children. It was a regular Mormon family reunion by golly. Only our friends were Mormon, though.

We also use the car to shop for others who can't leave their business often to buy supplies an hour away. We are richly rewarded in food treats and juices from the juice shop, not to mention motorcycle rides when we have heavy loads of ice or water to haul to the boat.Its a small community and we try to give a hand to all and find that same hand extended when we need it. Even though we are perceived as "rich gringos", friendships go beyond opportunism in most cases.

A note on the weather: Its been raining for about month now, some everyday, some days relentlessly. Kip is amused when I urge the weather man to give me a few hours of sun to dry my wash and I usually am satisfied. I prefer the wet to the 90 degree bake of late summer, so no complaints . Our house-boat has kept us dry except for a few drips here and there.

As most of you know I went home to NY in August and ended up staying three months to heal a knee which needed reconstructive surgery after I was hit by a car while riding my bike in Saugerties. Kip held the fort (boat) during hurricane season with one arm (he had a dislocated shoulder) all by himself. I returned to the Dominican Republic without Jonathan who is now attending Saugerties High under the tender supervision of his older brothers. Why he didn't want to spend another year here racing his dinghy around, riding motorcycle, not attending school and speaking a foreign language I'll never know.

We are grateful to be of service and are reminded that this is the work of the Lord. Though we had a bushelful of opposition and turbulence last fall we hope for a plentiful harvest of happy families in 2005. May God smile on all of you.


Jonathan is currently enjoying the dubious pleasures of attending high school in Saugerties, NY, where he lives with his two elder brothers and Arden's dog, Jude.