Adults and children in the isolated, mountainous village of La Montanita de la Virgen in Guatemala are currently in the dark. The village has never had access to electricity before, but their story will soon change.
The Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC) has selected a group of volunteer linemen to electrify La Montanita this coming August. The electrification project – dubbed Energy Trails – will be a joint effort between Oklahoma and Colorado’s electric cooperatives. The mission will be coordinated through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) philanthropic arm, NRECA International.
Providing oversight to the project is the OAEC International Committee, comprised of nine trustees from the statewide association board, which represents 30 electric cooperative member-systems. The committee recently selected a team of 12 volunteers and designated three alternates for the upcoming trip. Four additional volunteer linemen from Colorado will embark on this journey with their Oklahoma counterparts.
“We are grateful for the positive response of Oklahoma co-op linemen who are willing to leave their homes and families 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. It’s a life-changing gift.”
The project site is located in the department (state) of Jalapa, east of Guatemala City. The volunteer linemen will work for three weeks wiring poles and homes to receive first-time electricity. Upon completion, 76 homes, one elementary school, a health center and one church will benefit from access to electric power.
The team of linemen will work on a stretch of seven miles in mountainous terrain to wire 43 poles and install six transformers. Each home will be equipped with lightbulbs, light switches and electrical outlets. The powerlines will be an expansion of service to a local utility.
The following volunteers were selected to serve on the project: Richard Jackson (Alfalfa Electric Cooperative, Cherokee-Okla.), Darren Frazier (Choctaw Electric Cooperative, Hugo-Okla.), Brandon Shirey (Cimarron Electric Cooperative, Kingfisher-Okla.), Billy Patterson (CKenergy Electric Cooperative, Binger-Okla.), Jarrod Hooper (Cotton Electric Cooperative, Walters-Okla.), Jason Childress (East Central Electric Cooperative, Okmulgee-Okla.), Team Leader Damon Lester (Indian Electric Cooperative, Cleveland-Okla.), Shane Stiger (Indian Electric Cooperative, Cleveland-Okla.), Matt Montgomery (Northeast Electric Cooperative, Vinita-Okla.), Brad Hunter (Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, Norman-Okla.), Matt Caldwell (Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, Norman-Okla.), Justin Marsh (Southwest Rural Electric Association (Tipton-Okla.).
Alternates are Jerry Cundiff and Clint Robinson (Central Rural Electric Cooperative, Stillwater-Okla.) and Trevor Howard (Northwestern Electric Cooperative, Woodward-Okla.).
This project marks the fifth electrification project Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives have sponsored in Central and South America.
“Bringing electricity to remote areas in developing countries takes electric cooperatives back to their roots. It is an honor to pay it forward,” says OAEC General Manager Chris Meyers. “This mission reinforces our commitment to empower generations by improving the quality of life for local communities at home and abroad.”
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: https://oaec.coop/co-op-difference/energy-trails/
Source: OAEC release