For the first time, the lights are on at Pie de Cerro and Tierra Blanca Salinas in rural 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 two remote villages near the Mexican border in the region of Ixcán, Guatemala this October.
Fifteen volunteer linemen spent three weeks at the project site building powerlines and wiring 100 homes, two elementary schools, two health centers and five churches. The project consisted of 130 poles in approximately 4.34 miles of primary line, 3.86 miles of secondary line and four 25 kVa transformers. Each home received four lightbulbs, four light switches and four electrical outlets.
The volunteers were assisted by a local municipal electric utility, Empresa Rural Municipal de Electricidad (EMRE) based in Playa Grande. EMRE will maintain the powerlines and distribute power to the remote area.
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, cardamom seeds, cocoa and some vegetables.
Electric cooperatives have a long-standing tradition of bringing lights where there are none. Eighty-plus years ago, cooperatives brought power to rural America and its countryside; given their origins, electric co-ops are willing and well suited 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,” Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives General Manager, Chris Meyers, says. “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 enhanced safety for these villagers. It’s a life-changing gift.”
The following Oklahoma co-op volunteers completed this mission: Scotty Branham
(CKenergy Electric Cooperative, Binger-Okla.), Curtis Chlouber
(Cimarron Electric Cooperative, Kingfisher-Okla.), Mike Green
(Southeastern Electric Cooperative, Durant-Okla.), Team Leader Derec Janaway
(Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, Norman-Okla.), Michael Musil
(Central Electric Cooperative, Stillwater-Okla.), Brad Scott
(Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, Norman-Okla.), James Willcox
(Indian Electric Cooperative, Cleveland-Okla.), and Mike Wolfe
(Southwest Rural Electric Association, Tipton-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. This is the third project sponsored by Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives. The first project took place in 2016 with the electrification of two villages in the Amazonian area of Bolivia; the second project electrified a small village in rural Guatemala, near the border with Belize, and this year’s project brought first-time access to electricity to two villages. Collectively, Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives have made possible 536 first-time electric connections in five villages in Central America and South America.