Linemen from Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives honored for international electrification efforts
In the spirit of cooperation, friendship and concern for community, Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives have sponsored five international electrification projects in the countries of Bolivia and Guatemala, bringing first-time access to electricity to seven remote villages.
This week, nearly 40 Oklahoma cooperative volunteer linemen who have spent at least three weeks in these missions were honored by the Oklahoma Legislature with citations signed by Governor Kevin Stitt and lawmakers.
The international electrification projects have been possible through the coordination of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s philanthropic arm, NRECA International.
As a result of five completed projects, approximately 700 first-time connections to electricity have been made to homes, businesses, elementary schools, health centers and churches. Volunteer linemen built powerlines on each of the villages, installed transformers and conducted internal wiring preparing each structure to safely receive electric power for the first time. These projects enable residents in faraway villages to enjoy better access to education, economic development, health care, security, proper refrigeration and appliances, overall enhancing quality of life.
“The most impactful part of a project like this is seeing the resiliency of the people in the villages,” said Justin Marsh, a lineman volunteer with Southwest Rural Electric Association based in Tipton, Okla. “They are and have maintained themselves since the dawn of time. I’d like to think we have helped to improve their existence; I know they have improved mine.”
Electric cooperatives have a long-standing tradition of bringing lights where there are none.
In 2016, Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives established a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, The Oklahoma Energy Trails Foundation, to support the cause of international electrification.
“We believe in paying it forward,” said Chris Meyers, General Manager of the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives. “More than 80 years ago, rural Oklahoma and rural America were in the dark while urban areas enjoyed the benefits of electricity. Farmers and ranchers banded together to form rural electric cooperatives and bring themselves the gift of electricity. Investing in missions like this takes us back to our roots. Cooperatives stand on a legacy of service and of empowering communities with opportunity.”
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