Last night our team of humans arrived safely after long hours of travel to Lima. Happily, some essential non-human materials arrived with them – 11 boxes of seating materials that were accidentally left behind when our shipping container was loaded in January. It was quite a shock to realize, last Monday, that these essential items for creating wheelchair seating systems were missing! They included 5 boxes of liquid Sunmate foam that is used for custom molded seating, and a large number of wheelchair backs generously donated from our friends at Ride Designs. What to do?
The good news was that several people flew from the Twin Cities to Lima this weekend, and they are only about 4 hours’ drive from Sioux Falls, South Dakota – where our boxes awaited. We figured that it might be possible to get the boxes on the plane but at great expense that was unplanned for. Then came the question of bringing them through customs – paying the tax could be another hefty bill. People who have volunteered with Eleanore’s Project know that we have a term when something amazing happens. Circumstances pull together to resolve a problem or we find a desperately needed part that we were sure was missing – these warrant being called “Eleanore moments”.
Well, it was a series of “Eleanore moments” that brought our seating supplies to us safe and sound and at no cost. Barb Gilbertson, OT faculty at St. Kate’s and from Minnesota made exactly the right contact at Delta Airlines through a friend at her church. After transmitting sizes and weights the airline contact agreed to approve our boxes as extra luggage with no fee. Ben Richard at Hope Haven in Sioux Falls, drove the boxes to Barb in Minneapolis. Meanwhile in Lima, Jose Antonio wrote a special letter on Yancana Huasy letterhead to Peruvian customs authorities asking for entry of our materials duty free at the airport. I sent it to Barb on Friday.
On Saturday morning Barb and seven occupational therapy students checked in at the Delta counter with their own luggage and our extra boxes. It was all accepted with no problem. Similarly, passage through customs in Lima was unexpectedly a breeze. After checking the Yancana letter an official asked to open one box. After a quick lesson on the usage of liquid foam for making custom back supports, he waved everyone through. A true “Eleanore moment”!