Number 14

22 February 2006

Dear Friends and Supporters,

After receiving the third email with a subject line of something like "Are you guys OK?"  we have realized that maybe it has been more than long-enough since we have sent out a Family-to-Family Project Update.

First things first -- Yes, we are OK.

We are actually more than just OK, we are (given age, etc) doing great.  We, at this time, now includes: Arden, Kip, Jonathan, Mina Jo (our 30-year-old daughter), and Shantalya (Mina's one-year old daughter, referred to in the vernacular as "Shanti" - pronounced like shaun-tea, accent on the first syllable).

What are you all doing down there in the Dominican Republic now?

Jonathan:  Jonathan is attending the International School of Sosua ( ) where he has B+ GPA.  He is learning conversational Spanish and has helped build homes for profoundly poor sugar cutters.  He is in the 11th Grade,  having been credited with a year of high school for his life experience in sailing from Florida to New York, then sailing from New York to Florida thru the Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos Islands to the Dominican Republic.  Jon surfs a few times a week.

Mina Jo and Shanti:  Mina Jo is working on her fourth year of her BA program with Marylhurst University ( ) -- located in Portland, Oregon -- and has only six months to go.  She attends via the Internet.  Before she gets her degree, she will attend one final semester in Portland. She currently plans to go on to get a Masters  in education, gaining most of her Masters program credits in a specialized Montessori program, through Loyola College ( in Baltimore, MD.

   Shanti is busy being 13 months old, learning to talk, walk, and generally enjoying day after day of warm tropical weather and lots of attention from her mother, Uncle Jon, and her grandparents.   We, the grandparents aforementioned,  generally put in three to four hours a day being entertained by Shanti, so her mother can study.

Arden and Kip:  Well, first, we are doing the above -- that is to say  --  being parents and grandparents.  We have been doing the first for the last 30 years but are new to the second.  Personally, I (Kip) prefer the grandparenting.  We have adjusted our time contribution to the Family-to-Family Project to allow this nine month stint (September 05 to June 06) of  parenting.

    In support of this parenting effort, we have taken several apartments in a private house in Sosua, an hour and a half east of Luperon, where the Golden Dawn lies moored, safe from hurricanes.  This means that we have some luxuries that we didn't have before:  hot water, cable TV (many channels in English), broadband Internet (DSL via Verizon), and most importantly, Arden's piano.  It also means that we can host Mina Jo and Shati and Jon and help the "kids" get through their schooling.

    Before you ask -- No, we do not know what we will be doing after June 2006.  It is one of life's great mysteries.

The Family-to-Family Project:  The day-to-day  operations of the Project have been in the hands of our local volunteers since last February or March.  Each of the three major cities in which we operate -- Puerto Plata, Santiago, and San Francisco de Macoris -- have a Volunteer Director that handles all of the client loans and makes all new loans.   The project is  currently helping 65-70  families  and has helped  -- all  together --  about 100 families.

     The micro-enterprise loan pilot project has actually been completed.  We know what works and what doesn't. We have left all your money in place in the communities where it is used and re-used to help Dominican families improve their economic well-being.  To simply say that they are grateful for your help would be a woeful understatement -- they are ever so grateful.

    Do all the micro-enterprises suceed?  Of course not. Do all the loans get repaid on time?  Of course not.  Does every  penny of your generous donations help someone here to have a better life?  Absolutely!

Extra-curricular projects:  With the burden of day-to-day operations being handled by our competent Domincian directors, we have taken on a few "extra" projects, outside the stated purposes of the Family-to-Family Project.

Haitian orphans:       One of our original Family-to-Family Project clients, "Sister Charo", has three daughters of her own, and supports them as a single mother while attending university.  One of her neighbors,  an Haitian "illegal immigrant" and a single mother as well, died leaving two small girls - Andreina and Alexandra (pictured in the slideshow image 14) - three and four years old. The girls had no one and no where to go.  Despite difficult financial circumstances, Sister Charo simply took the girls in and made them part of her family.  When we first came in contact with this family, there was the possibility that Andreina and Alexandra would have to be sent to an orphanage  for undocumented Haitian children -- tantamount to a death sentence -- because the family just could not afford to keep them.  Sister Charo would never have asked for it but The Family-to-Family Project  established a special fund that provides "a little extra" that ensures that Sister Charo can keep these two  children safe in the fold of her loving family. .

    Two LDS families in the United States currently support this effort on a month-to-month basis.  If you would like to share this joyful burden, you can make a donation online via our website (Contact Us - Donate Online) and indicate "Haitian Orphans" as the "Designation" in the donation form.  It costs about 80 cents a day per child, or $50.00  a month, to keep these two little girls out of the orphanage.

Blind Bishop:      In one of the local  LDS congregations, there is an ex-Bishop with three small children.  Over the last three years he has lost his health and his sight to a genetic disease known as Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada (VKH) syndrome. He has been unable to work or even care for his own children.  His strong wife works full-time and attends university on Saturdays towards getting a degree in accounting.  They live in a rented house in one of the poorest districts of the city.

    The Family-to-Family Project has established a special fund project to  pay the expenses of  sending this fine brother to the goverment School for the Blind in a city about 50 miles away.    He goes three times a week at a cost of  $10 a day.   The improvement in his general well-being has been extremely dramatic since he started the school -- he was dying a little every day, but now, with hope restored  and new skills learned, he is cheerful and looking forward to life again.   Honestly, we need help with this fund --  $30 will send  Bishop Valensuela to one week of life-saving School for the Blind.   Can you help?   If you donate online, please designate  "Bishop".

     There is a possibility that Bishop Valensuela will get help from our Church to go to the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Florida, where he can be further tested and diagnosed  and where it can be determined if anything can be done to restore his sight.    This effort is the result of  a lot of real dedicated work on the part of a brother from Utah who met Bishop Valensuela when visiting here last year.   If you know any members, Spanish speaking if possible, in the Miami/Palm Beach Gardens area of Florida, that might be able to host Bishop Valensuela for a week  if this plan comes to fruition, please let us know.

Community Health Clinics:  One of our Family-to-Family Project clients in Puerto Plata asked us one day last fall,  "Could you find some way to help our  community health clinic?"  We didn't think so, but we went anyway to see the clinic which services upwards to 5,000 Dominican adults and children.  They had nothing....just a few folding chairs, an old exam table or two, a few reflector lights.  Electricity on only a few hours a day,but not dependably at any particular time.  No medicines.  No gauze or plaster for casts.

    They did have a doctor assigned by the Department of Health but she had no real resources for diagnosis or treatment.

    The clinic is supported by donations from the community.  These people have almost nothing - thus there isn't much in the way of monetary support.   The Project had no money not already in use and even if we did, it would not have been donated to us for this purpose.

    Just as we were beginning to despair, our prayers were answered. The Church had just assigned a couple to serve as Humanitarian Missionaires to the Dominican Republic.  They heard of our enquires at the Church offices in Santo Domingo and contacted us.   As a result, we were able to help the clinic receive $15,000 worth of equipment and medicines from the Church's Humanitarian Fund, including a sonogram machine, a small gasoline powered electric generator, and a supply of emergency  medications, to be prescribed  at cost to the poor.

    At the little ceremony to celebrate the arrival of the new equipment and supplies, an official of the Department of Public Health asked if we, the Church, could help another clinic - this time a rural clinic that is intended to operate as an 24-hr emergency room for the people living further out in the countryside, the lack of which had resulted in many deaths among the seriously ill and accident victims as attempts were made to transport them over the bad roads to the hospital in the city. 

  As Elder and Sister Schmidt are based in Santo Domingo, a four or five hour drive away, we undertook to do the groundwork at El Cupey. There we discovered a wonderful modern brand-new concrete clinic building standing absolutely empty and unused. Another NGO -- Doctors of the World, which is based in Spain -- had built the building for them, but the newly elected Dominican government found its coffers empty and no funds existed (nor could any be found) to equip the new desparately needed rural clinic.   After a great deal of effort from the community's health committee, the State Director of Public Health, the missionaries,  ourselves and a generous grant from the Church's Humanitarian Fund, the clinic is set to open at the end of this month.

    In addition to helping these two clinics, we have forged strong ties with Elder and Sister Schmidt, and are helping them in their efforts to bring into this area a shipping container full of twenty pallets of medical and first-aid supplies to be distributed to eight other rural community supported health clincs in towns with names like El Mango, Yasica Arriba, Yasica Abajo, and Montelleno. One of the clinics is in a settlement for Haitian cane cutters. The goods are all donated in the United States, consolidated by the Church Welfare Department, and shipped by Humanitarian Services. The container has been approved and should arrive in six weeks or so.

    Just another word about these community health clinics -- a telling story about how much these people care for one another, and get involved in solving their own community problems, even when they themselves have nothing.  When Arden and I went up to El Cupey, where the new but empty and unused clinic was situated in a tiny community built along a ridge looking down on the Atlantic, the local people took an immediate interest and made sure we got to see someone who could help us help the clinic.  We arranged a little meeting with the community's "health committee" who own and manage the clinic. When we arrived at the meeting, held in the middle of a workday, there were 20 people there, many traveling miles and miles from the surrounding mountainous areas to fulfill their duty as members of the Public Health Committee of El Cupey.  As the clinic, if it could be opened, would also serve as the area's pediatric hospital and vaccination clinic, the principal of the elementary school and the "school committee" attended as well.  So much dedication to making things better and so much willingness to serve one another.

What's Next?

    We don't know.  We'll let you know.

What can you do to help?

    Our Haitian orphans and the blind Bishop could use your financial support -- whatever you can send.

    If anyone has an inside track into a philanthropic foundation, I would like to start a "People's Pharmacy" selling nothing but generic medications at cost -- the poor here can get free medical attention at a public hospital but they can not afford to buy the drugs, even common antibiotics, prescribed to treat their illnesses.

    And, of course, the Family-to-Family Project can always use additional funds to help families to help themselves.

    We're thankful for all  your prayers and support.

Kip and Arden Hansen

Kip and Arden Hansen

The Family-to-Family Project
c/o Kip and Arden Hansen
153 Malden Tpke
Saugerties, NY 12477

(if mail is urgent, please indicate so on envelope)

1-809-386-3356 (cell phone in the Dominican Republic)