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Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives bring first-time electricity to Guatemalan village

October 09, 2019

Photo by Studio1441.com

For the first time, the lights are on in Sillab, 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 near the Belize border in the region of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala.

Twenty volunteer linemen spent two weeks at the project site building powerlines and wiring 42 structures, including one elementary school and four churches. The project consisted of some 40-plus poles in approximately 6.5 miles of line and four transformers installed by the linemen. Each home received four lightbulbs, two light switches and two electrical outlets.

Now completed, the power lines will belong to a local utility, ADECORK (Associación Para Desarollo Communitario Rax Kiche; translation: Association for Community Development Rax Kiche). ADECORK will carry the responsibility of generating and distributing electric power to Sillab. The utility operates a small hydro plant with a capacity of 75 kilowatts (kW).

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, and some vegetables.

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,” says 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.”

Four international electrification projects have been sponsored since 2016. The first project took place in Bolivia and the three following projects have taken place in Guatemala. A project is scheduled for Bolivia in 2020. Collectively, Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives have made possible 578 first-time electric connections in six 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; all contributions to the Foundation are tax-deductible. To learn more, visit: https://www.oaec.coop/energy_trails/

VIDEO: https://youtu.be/52xFw68F34A
PHOTOS: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmGYT3zK

Anna Politano
Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives