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Yale 62

Career Interrupted. Times Two.
Second Interruption.

By Chuck Post

[Editor’s note: Chuck and his wife Grace live in Prescott, Arizona.]

At age 39 I had spent 16 years in the computer field, starting as a programmer with IBM. After some South America adventures, I built on my three years with IBM and found work in computer sales. I found myself in probably the largest computer market in the world, Washington, DC.

As a single guy, DC had its allures: single women. Career-focused, loaded with degrees, their own condominium.

But after more than a decade, something felt wrong. I was getting stale. And DC was getting nasty. The Beltway clogged. No street parking places. Tear gas clogging the air when there was a demonstration gone wild.

As I began to sense another career change, along came a jungle doctor one day, a friend of a friend. He offered me a second career shift at half pay. I jumped at it.

He was trying to save a struggling, small non-profit with a hospital boat in the Amazon River. The organization was named Esperanca, Portuguese for “Hope.”  It was a river version of the larger, better known non-profit of the same name, with an ocean-sized hospital boat.

After a few years of operation, the funding was coming up short. The organization was borrowing money from a board member to make payroll.

I moved from DC to Phoenix where the fund raising was centered, and took the helm.

Chuck with Amazon kids

The hospital boat, having been hauled to the Amazon on the deck of a large German freighter, was a converted passenger ferry from San Diego, made obsolete after a bridge was built between downtown San Diego and North Island where a large US Navy base was located. With a barge-type hull, this craft could pull up on any beach or river bank in the Amazon region to immunize natives and see patients.

The conversion from a passenger ferry to a small hospital drew a lot of publicity back in San Diego. The year was 1973. Lumber companies, hospitals and labor unions donated talent and materials. The humanitarian story drew publicity from Time, People, and other publications.

Volunteer medical and surgical teams from the US began to respond to the volunteer openings, but a large staff of Amazon locals were still needed to make it work.

A patient operated on to correct club foot condition

Especially when a large part of the work began to shift from the dramatic curative work to primary health care and training.

While I was in the Director’s seat, we dug hundreds of wells in the remote villages, which solved the chronic dysentery and infant mortality, at one point estimated at close to 50%. Before they had wells, they were carrying buckets of river water (where animals waded) to their homes —  only to sicken children and adults alike.

Health team outreach

Most of the money was raised from private sources, but the US Agency for International Development took an interest in showing volunteer American medical, surgical, and dental volunteers in this region, sometimes called the Appalachia of Brazil.

With USAID money, a large clinic was built on land, including an operating suite and a large dental clinic. A smaller boat was built to move health teams more quickly up and down the Amazon and tributary rivers. And just in time, as the aging San Diego ferry-hospital began to degrade after 15 years under tropical rains.

During my 20 years, Esperanca created smaller projects in Bolivia, Honduras, and in Portuguese-speaking Africa. And after my departure, health projects serving low income people in Phoenix have been started up.

My hat is off to my many Yale classmates who have ascended their impressive career ladders and made us proud.  I found myself by getting off my career ladder twice, and finding my true place on terra firma.


We welcome your comments below.

3 comments to Career Interrupted. Times Two. Second Interruption.

  • william weber

    Good on you, mate

  • John Hatch

    Great story…don’t stop now! Some of us have found intergenrational work rewarding—seniors retired and youth & families in community, working together to help empower them to meet their needs/solve their problems. I hope you can find somthing like that.

  • Stephen Buck

    Wonderful story Chuck. You should be proud fall you’ve done and the lives you have made better. I really appreciate reading you story, a nice antidote to the negativity that can come to many. in these difficult and divisive times. Hope is a great name for what you gave. Bravo!