When I joined the ROC Wheels team in the fall of 2016, preparations for the Rotary/ROC Wheels Argentina wheelchair distribution had been underway for over two years. My first involvement with the project was assisting Wayne with selecting the wheelchairs at the Hope Haven warehouse in Sioux Fall, South Dakota. I know they weren’t the only prayers said for this project, but we definitely needed God’s intervention to get the right mix of chairs for the kids and young adults in Argentina.
On our return to Bozeman, Wayne and I shifted our focus to getting the wheelchairs, a 20 foot shipping container, and all of the required paperwork from South Dakota to Argentina. With the excellent services of Jim Griffiths at Jimak Transport Intl. Inc., the container was routed from Sioux Falls to Minneapolis by truck, to New York City by train, then to San Antonio, Chile by ship. From there, the equally excellent services of one Jorge Vega Diaz, a customs agent and Rotarian, shepherded the container through Chilean customs, onto a truck and over the Andes into Argentina.
On March 2nd, ten people, from three US states and Ireland, converged on the EZE airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina, then flew on to Santa Rosa to start the week long distribution. Though we arrived at Santa Rosa very late that night, we were met by a throng of Rotarians - the most hospitable people you could ever hope to meet. We were warmly welcomed by all, then we left by ones and twos as we were taken to their homes for the night. Wayne and I were fortunate to be guests of Juan Pedro Torroba and his wife, Estela Werner. Juan Pedro has been the key Rotarian behind the success of this project in Argentina from its inception.
On March 3rd, we spent the day unpacking and assembling the 89 wheelchairs that had completely filled the shipping container. We also fit our first child in a wheelchair.
March 4th through 9th have somewhat run together in my memory as a joy-filled blend of meeting and working with incredibly nice people, miraculously modifying wheelchairs to help kids and young adults have more comfort and mobility, and being treated as royalty by our Rotarian hosts in Santa Rosa, General Pico, Tres Arroyas, and Mar del Plata. Of all the memories, the ones I treasure most are the smiles of the wheelchair recipients (and their families) as they set out in a properly fit wheelchair.—Martin Haas