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Dairy producer’s compassion leaves lasting impact

Marjie Knust Published on 07 December 2010

Dairyman Steve Hanson doesn’t like to wait. But, right now, he’s at the U.S.-Mexico border waiting to get approval to take supplies like clothes, food and building materials into the country. Just 10 miles from the border are 100 children who are also waiting.

Hanson has driven five-and-a-half hours from his dairy in Clovis, New Mexico, to deliver much-needed supplies to the children at Bethel Orphanage in Juarez, Mexico. This is one of the almost-monthly trips Hanson has made to the orphanage for the past five years. On his first trip, he was just accompanying a friend.



“My wife and I were close with a couple, and the wife’s mother had started the orphanage,” he says. “They were coming down and asked if we wanted to come. We were interested in where she grew up, so we said ‘yes.’”

When Steve and his wife, Cheri, arrived at the orphanage, they were overwhelmed by what they saw.

“The kids were hungry, their water system was just pathetic, and hygiene was not on the top of their list,” Hanson says. “We saw the needs of those kids and it was just so sad that some place so close to home could be in such bad shape. I mean, they can see America from the orphanage.”

The Hansons decided they couldn’t ignore what they witnessed. The first problem they tackled was the orphanage’s water system. Water was delivered to the orphanage by a truck that dumped water into a large concrete open-air container. The tank didn’t have a lid, which meant the water collected dead bugs and birds, leaves and bacteria. In addition, the children at the orphanage would get in the tank to play. So, Steve designed a top for the tank and with the help of other volunteers, the Hansons went to the orphanage and built and installed the lid. They also purchased chlorine tablets for the orphanage to use.

Their involvement with the orphanage continued to grow, and their friends and neighbors back home began to notice. In fact, all of the money and supplies Steve has collected have been generated by word of mouth.


“I’ve been involved long enough now that people just know that this is something we do, so they’ll call me if they have something to give, or tell me to let them know the next time we go down,” he says. “We have a neighbor who farms potatoes, and he gave us a bunch to take down there. We know businessmen who give us $500 or so every time we go to Mexico.”

It’s the stories of the children’s backgrounds that inspire him to give, Steve says.

“They’ve all been through so much,” he says. “They’ve been abused or abandoned. Or some have parents; they just can’t afford to keep them. You can’t ignore their needs. The first time I visited, I thought, ‘You know, I can’t change the world, but I can help out here and there.’”

Steve’s compassion for these orphans comes from his childhood, when he lost his parents and sister to a car accident when he was 18. He was left to take care of his 16-year-old sister and says that experience helps him relate to the children at the orphanage.

“They’ve all lost so much at such a young age, and I can kind of relate to that,” he says.

In addition to food and supplies, the Hansons support the orphanage financially. In Mexico, children receive public education until sixth grade. To continue, they must attend private school. Between the Hansons, some of their colleagues and their church, they support 10 high-school-aged orphans and four in college. One of the college-aged students works on Steve’s 3,500-cow dairy during school breaks.


“We’re hoping that by showing these kids that they have possibilities and giving them an education, we can break this cycle of homeless and abused children,” Steve says. “Education is very important to doing that.”

Through the Hansons’ dedication and support, they hope that 100 children in Mexico won’t have to wait for a better life – they’ll be able to go build one for themselves. PD

Excerpts from DFA Leader

Marjie Knust
DFA Leader