Esperanca Remembers its Founding Brothers

James Tupper’s first visit to the barrios of South America can only be described as life-altering. The 26-year-old Naval medical officer went ashore during a stop along route to the Antarctic in 1960 and what he saw was a shocking example of unrelieved poverty—something that the middle-class graduate from the Medical College of Wisconsin could hardly have imagined.

    The images of children with swollen bellies, adults coughing up blood, and families living upon trash heaps would haunt him for many years after. In 1963 he made a decision: he would enter the priesthood and become a medical missionary in Brazil. He chose Luke as his religious name, after the physician who became St. Paul’s companion.
Father Luke and his brother, Jerry Tupper, were the founders of Phoenix nonprofit Esperança, which means “hope” in Portuguese. While Father Luke provided the medical expertise, the drive and the “hope,” brother Jerry, an attorney, set up the not-for-profit, found office space, recruited local volunteers, and even traveled around the country seeking donations for the organization whose message, still today, is “bringing hope, providing health and transforming communities for the world’s poor.”

Esperança grew from Father Luke riding a bicycle out to the remotest of villages with his black doctor’s bag, to a floating hospital on a flat-bottomed ferryboat that traveled up and down the Amazon River, to a permanent site at 19th Avenue and Earll Drive in Phoenix that recently was dedicated to the two brothers. Though both have since passed away, the organization continues on, and those who have become involved over the years—whether as paid staff, local volunteers or medical missionaries—all agree that     Esperança has changed their lives.

The public is invited to hear more about the story of the Tupper family and its powerful legacy of heathcare for the poor, and how the nonprofit has grown locally as well as globally, at a free breakfast event scheduled for 8-9 a.m. Thursday, May 3, at the Phoenix Country Club, 2901 N. 7th St. A Phoenix doctor who returned last month from a medical mission trip to Nicaragua will share his experiences and photos.

To RSVP for the free breakfast event, e-mail Lori Logan at [email protected] or call 602-252-7772, ext. 101.

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