Visit to Tucuman Argentina

Last June, the first phase of our project in Tucuman, Argentina, Your Children, Our Children, designed with the goal of helping to reduce the infant mortality rate at the Instituto de Maternidad y Ginecologia (hereafter referred to as the Maternity Hospital) became a vivid reality. With the help of the outstanding planning and Spanish language skills of Lisi Sehringer, a native of Tucuman currently living in Montgomery, who originally brought the needs of the Maternity Hospital to the attention of our Rotary Club, and our frequent flyer miles, Rotarians Ed Griffin, Marcia Bossart, and Ms Sehringer arrived in Buenos Aires early on a Saturday morning, following a 5234 mile, eleven hour flight.

After transferring to our hotel, we immediately met with two representatives from a medical equipment company and finalized an order for $20,798 worth of equipment to be delivered to the Maternity Hospital on the following Tuesday. This equipment had been previously identified by the officials at the Maternity Hospital as a priority to meet the needs of the neonatal unit and help reduce the high infant mortality rate. The equipment included oximeters, respiratory humidifiers, and intravenous pumps.

Matching Grant Funds

The funding for this first phase of what has been planned to be a three phase project came from many sources, culminating in a Matching Grant from Rotary International for $24,798.

The funds for the Matching Grant included $4532 raised locally, i.e., from the Rotary Club of Princeton with support from three other clubs in District 7510, Lawrencville, Lambertville-New Hope, and Princeton Corridor, with a Tango Evening Fundraiser and a Luncheon supported by area architects in honor of the Argentinean Architect Caesar Pelli; $5000 from District Designated Funds on deposit with RI from our Rotary District 7510, and $4000 from District 4800 in Argentina.

Our local contribution of $4532 was matched with $2266 from Rotary International; the $5000 from District Designated Funds from District 7510 was matched with another $5000 from Rotary International, and the $4000 from District 4800 in Argentina was matched with $4000 from Rotary International. The total of $24,978 is a manifestation of the power of Matching Grants and how important it is for every member of our Club to support District projects such as Eat Drink and Share and the Rotary International Foundation. It is our support of District projects that make District Designated Funds possible and our contributions to the Rotary International Foundation that make the Matching Grants possible.

Arrival in Tucuman

Group of Tucuman Rotarians greeting Marcia Bossart, Ed Griffin and Lisi Schringer at the Tucuman Airport.With the promise that the medical equipment would be delivered to the Maternity Hospital in time for our arrival at the hospital on Tuesday and a wonderful Sunday of sightseeing behind us, on Monday we flew the 674 miles from Buenos Aires to Tucuman and were met by representatives from several Rotary Clubs in the Tucuman area, including Rotary Club Tucuman Tafi Viejo, the Club with whom we had partnered in the Matching Grant and Tucuman 9 de Julio, the host Club in the City of Tucuman. It was quite a thrill to get off the plane in Tucuman and receive such a warm welcome by so many Rotarians.  (Pictured at upper right:  Group of Tucuman Rotarians greeting Marcia Bossart, Ed Griffin and Lisi Schringer at the Tucuman Airport.)

Our first evening in Tucuman was highlighted by a dinner at the home of the incoming President of the Tucuman 9 de Julio Club, a dinner with 30 Rotarians and their spouses from area Rotary Clubs, live regional music from two locally famous guitarists, and a delicious array of grilled Argentinean beef and area wines.

Visit to Maternity Hospital

On Tuesday morning after meeting with members of the Chamber of Commerce, we went to the Maternity Hospital where we met with several hospital officials, presented the equipment which had been flown from Buenos Aires to Tucuman along with a representative from the medical equipment company, and were taken on a tour of various sections of the hospital.

Words cannot describe the conditions that we saw. Our tour of the neonatal unit, as well as the maternity area and other parts of the hospital infrastructure, graphically confirmed the many hurdles that the hospital must surmount if it is going to reduce its high infant mortality rate. Much of the equipment that we saw was a potpourri of pieces, obviously acquired at many different times. Many of the rooms and corridors were dull, dark, and dirty. There was evidence of peeling paint everywhere. Amidst all the dinginess and lack of equipment and supplies, however, was a committed and concerned group of people, who work very hard to make the best of what they have, but who are very discouraged by what they don't have.

Part of our tour included a visit to the critical care unit for women with high risk pregnancies. This unit had three beds and a motley collection of equipment and supplies. There was not even an area or equipment to keep the sterile instruments and supplies totally separate from an area for disposable waste. This critical care section is the Maternity Hospital's next priority in its mission to reduce the high rate of infant mortality. We hope to be able to help in this endeavor in the second phase of our Tucuman Project.

Other Contributions

In addition to the equipment paid for by the Matching Grant, we also presented the Maternity Hospital with several suitcases of disposable IV tubing and disposable rubber gloves, donated by the University Medical Center of Princeton, as well as with many packages of baby clothes and diapers donated by the members of Lisi Sehringer's church.

We also have some other donated equipment waiting to be shipped to the Hospital. These include 5 used croupettes donated by the Medical Center of Princeton and 2 used incubators donated by Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camden, NJ.

Rotary Hospitality

Throughout our visit in Tucuman, the warm hospitality extended to us was a wonderful example of what it means to be part of the Rotary Family. From the Tuesday morning that we were met at the Tucuman Airport by a large group of Rotarians to our departure back to Buenos Aires from the same airport on the following Friday afternoon, we were taken to lunches, dinners, meetings, shown many sights and points of interest, and given samples of regional foods and memorabilia to take home. Throughout our stay, we were continually picked up and driven various places by a Rotarian from the Tucuman 9 de Julio host Club. This Rotarian spoke no English, but Ed Griffin did a wonderful job using his Spanish, and we taught our new friend some English. The Rotarians from the various Rotary Clubs in the Tucuman area are a wonderful group of people!

Next Step

We look forward to returning to Tucuman, hopefully accompanied by more members from our Club, and to working on the Second Phase of Your Children, Our Children.

At the District Conference in Saratoga, we learned that the District has agreed to make our Tucuman Project a District Project for this coming Rotary Year. Consequently, we will be sharing the needs of the Maternity Hospital in Tucuman with the other Rotary Clubs in District 7510 and look forward to support from members of other Rotary Clubs as well as from the Members of our own Club. As we told all of the Rotarians in the Tucuman area, "Together we will make a difference!"

Travel Frequent Flyer Points Needed

According to Ed Griffin, Travel Points are needed for our Argentine Hospital Project! American and United travel points are particularly useful. We can also convert some credit card points. See Wendy Wintle, travel agent extraordinaire for details.