Volunteers from several Oklahoma Electric cooperatives as well as others in Colorado and Arkansas have just returned from a 14-day goodwill mission to bring electricity to farming villages in Guatemala.
It was in the mountainous region of Alta Verapaz of Guatelama where people got electricity for the first time. The volunteers took part in a project that is a partnership between the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s philanthropic arm, NRECA International, and Heifer International.
Their work involved internal wiring of nearly 200 homes and farming structures in 38 villages. Volunteers installed breaker boxes, light sockets, outlets and switches as well as meters on concrete poles outside of the homes. The mission is estimated to empower nearly 1,200 farmers and their families to increase incomes and economic opportunity, improve quality of life and enable agricultural communities to thrive.
“Serving on this mission has been incredibly humbling. Co-ops are built to give back. It is our privilege to give the gift of light to those who never had it,” Jarrod Hooper, Cotton Electric Cooperative safety director and project team leader, said. “Their lives will never be the same, and the same can be said about the volunteers. We will always remember the villagers’ kindness and resilience. We are all changed.”
This project marks the 6th mission sponsored by Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives. Since 2016, Oklahoma co-ops have been partnering with NRECA International and sister cooperatives in other states to bring first-access to electricity in Central America and South America. To date, nearly 900 first-time connections have been made possible through the involvement of Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives.
“Access to electricity will bring economic empowerment to these farmers and opportunities to enhance overall quality of life, including education, health care and safety,” says Chris Meyers, General Manager for the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives. “I’m proud of our co-op volunteers for leaving the comforts of their homes and for giving the people of Guatemala a boost to improve their lives.”
Oklahoma volunteers serving on the project were: Team Leader Jarrod Hooper (Cotton Electric Cooperative, Walters-Okla.), Jerry Cundiff (Central Rural Electric Cooperative, Stillwater-Okla.), Stephanie Jones (Cimarron Electric Cooperative, Kingfisher-Okla.),Josh Stocum (Indian Electric Cooperative, Cleveland-Okla.),Thomas Gleason (Kay Electric Cooperative, Blackwell-Okla.), Heath Morgan (Cotton Electric Cooperative, Walters-Okla.), Billy Patterson (CKenergy Electric Cooperative, Binger-Okla.), Larry Crowell (Cotton Electric Cooperative, Walters-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. To learn more, visit: https://oaec.coop/co-op-difference/energy-trails/