Do something wonderful, people may imitate it.
– Albert Schweitzer
In the mid-1970’s I was introduced to a fascinating medical and health education organization working on the Amazon River. The organization is Esperança and is the brain child of Father Luke Tupper. Esperança means “hope” in Portuguese.
Luke, a former Navy and Marine Corps doctor, witnessed the medical deprivation of the children of South America. When his military service was completed he entered the Franciscan Order. After his ordination Father Luke was assigned to Brazil and began the overwhelming task of bringing medical care to the people of that region.
Luke had a brilliant idea (most people thought he was crazy), and with the help of his businessman brother, Jerry, they raised funds and bought the old Coronado Ferry that carried passengers across San Diego Bay back and forth to Coronado Island. They refitted the boat into a floating hospital with a small surgery and shipped it to the Amazon River. Doctors and nurses from the US and Europe would volunteer two to three weeks of their time to work on the boat fixing cleft palates, club feet and other surgical needs of children. As a result of their work thousands of children now have a chance for a normal and productive life.
As the organization grew they provided more and more medical and health education to the indigenous tribes along the Amazon, teaching primary and secondary health care, such as basic hygiene, safe drinking water, how to dig wells, how to treat diarrhea in babies, as well as giving vaccinations for polio, small pox, measles and other diseases. Esperança grew into a major health education foundation and even helped establish a university along the Amazon for health training and advanced education. Imagine helping educate local people to educate others – a gift that multiplies.
That’s when I got involved and met a most remarkable couple, Ron and Vera Bertagnoli, who were the directors of Esperança in Brazil. Ron is an American who moved to Brazil and with Vera they were the guiding lights of the organization until their retirement. I hadn’t seen Ron in 20-plus years so when he came through London yesterday we had lunch and a good long catch up. It’s not easy devoting your life to helping others but in my mind, Luke Tupper and Ron and Vera are real saints, and definitely real leaders. In fact, Vera is the Executive Director of the Rotary for the entire Amazon basin.
We shared stories about our lives, as friends do and talked about our next set of adventures in trying to make the world a better place (neither of us are interested in retirement). Ron has gone on to found an offshoot organization, Amazon Africa to find additional ways to help those in need. They are bringing hope for children in war torn Angola and other ravaged countries.
When I think of the term “Masters of the Universe” I think of Father Luke Tupper and Ron and Vera Bertagnoli, not Gordon Gecko or Fred Goodwin.
Tight Lines . . .
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