Lighting a New Path

Oklahoma Electric Cooperative Linemen Bring First-time Electricity to Guatemalan Village

For the first time, the lights are on in La Montanita de la Virgen, Guatemala. Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives – in partnership with Colorado’s electric cooperatives and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s philanthropic arm, NRECA International – brought first-time electricity to the isolated village in the region of Jalapa, east of Guatemala City. 

Sixteen volunteer linemen, including Brad Hunter and Matthew Caldwell with OEC, spent three weeks at the project site building powerlines and wiring 84 structures, including one elementary school and two churches. The project consisted of 77 poles in approximately 5.5 miles of line and six transformers installed by the linemen. Each home received four lightbulbs, two light switches and two electrical outlets. 

The local partner for this project is the Empresa Eléctrica Municipal de San Pedro Pinula, a municipal utility, now responsible for the maintance of the newly built infrastructure. The predominant fuel source in Guatemala is hydro generation. 

The locals live in extreme poverty conditions without running water, plumbing and food refrigeration. The villagers depend on farming operations for economic sustainment; they produce corn, beans, rice, coffee, potatoes, pepper, tomatoes and onions.

Hunter said he was positively impacted by this mission and came home with a changed outlook on life. 

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it truly humbled me,” Hunter said. “It was a privilege to use the linework trade to make a positive difference in the lives of the people of La Montanita. Their simplicity, joy and friendship were truly a gift.”

The staff and board of directors at OEC supported Hunter and Caldwell’s participation in the project. 

“We are proud of Brad and Matt for selflessly giving of their time for an extended period of time to help our neighbors in Central America,” said Patrick Grace, OEC CEO. “This is a powerful way to display one of the cooperatives’ core principles, ‘Concern for Community,’ at home and across the borders.”

Electric cooperatives have a long-standing tradition of bringing lights where there are none. More than eighty years ago, cooperatives brought power to rural America and its countryside; given its origins, electric co-ops are willing and well-positioned to help other areas that do not have access to electric power.

“Bringing electricity to remote areas in developing countries takes electric cooperatives back to their roots,” said Chris Meyers, general manager of the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives. “It reinforces our commitment to improve the quality of life for local communities at home and abroad. Access to electricity will bring economic empowerment, better access to health care and education and enhanced safety for these villagers. It’s a life-changing gift.”

Collectively, Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives have made possible nearly 700 first-time electric connections in seven villages in Central America and South America.

Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives have established a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, The Oklahoma Energy Trails Foundation, to support this cause; five projects have been sponsored since 2016. 7602100115

All contributions to the Foundation are tax-deductible. Learn more at: oaec.coop/co-op-difference/energy-trails/

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