The Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC) has selected a group of eight volunteer linemen to electrify remote communities in the northwestern part of Guatemala this coming fall. This effort will be a joint project between Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives and Colorado’s electric cooperatives. The electrification project will be coordinated through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) philanthropic arm, NRECA International Foundation.
“Bringing electricity to areas that have none takes us back to our roots of rural electrification,” says Chris Meyers, OAEC general manager. “Electric cooperatives are well-suited to help decrease the number of those living without electricity worldwide.”
The volunteers will build power lines in the village of Pie del Cerro and potentially in neighboring village Tierra Blanca Salinas. Both communities are tucked away near a rainforest in the region of Ixcán, close to the border of Mexico. Collectively, the communities have approximately 100 households, five churches, two elementary schools and two health centers – all without access to reliable and affordable electricity. The locals live in humble means without running water, food refrigeration, or the ability to use electronic appliances for house chores or to aid in their economic growth. The villagers depend on farming operations for economic sustainment; they produce corn, beans, cardamom seeds, cocoa and some vegetables.
A local utility, Empresa Municipal Rural de Electricidad (EMRE), based in Playa Grande, Ixcán, will maintain the power lines once they are built. The project will consist of 130 poles and two transformers on 4.34 miles of primary line and 3.86 miles of secondary line. Most of the terrain will be flat, but about one mile of line will be built in dense rainforest surroundings. The homes will receive at least two lightbulbs and two electrical outlets. The OAEC International Committee, comprised of trustees from the statewide association, selected a team of 8 volunteers and designated three alternates for the upcoming trip.
“We are grateful for the overwhelming response of Oklahoma co-op linemen who are willing to leave their homes for an extended period of time to empower far-away communities,” says International Committee Chairman Jimmy Taylor. “Access to electricity will bring economic empowerment, better access to health care and enhanced safety for these villagers.”
The following volunteers were selected to serve on the project: Team Leader Derec Janaway (Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, Norman-Okla.), Dakota Gilbert (Northfork Electric Cooperative, Sayre-Okla.), James Willcox (Indian Electric Cooperative, Cleveland-Okla.), Mike Green (Southeastern Electric Cooperative, Durant-Okla.), Mike Wolfe (Southwest Rural Electric Cooperative, Tipton-Okla.), Scotty Branham (CKenergy Electric Cooperative, Binger-Okla.), Curtis Chlouber (Cimarron Electric Cooperative, Kingfisher-Okla.), Brad Scott (Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, Norman-Okla.).
Alternates are Michael Musil (Central Electric Cooperative, Stillwater-Okla.), Chance Turpin (Western Farmers Electric Cooperative, Anadarko-Okla.), and Dusty McNatt (CKenergy Electric Cooperative, Binger-Okla.).
Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives have established a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, The Oklahoma Energy Trails Foundation, to support this cause. All contributions are tax-deductible. To learn more, visit: http://tinyurl.com/energytrails