Iowa electric co-op linemen bring electricity to rural Guatemalan village
Tuesday, October 29, 2019 – DES MOINES, IA – Twelve volunteer linemen from electric cooperatives in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin recently returned from an international project called “Partners for a Brighter Tomorrow.” The group worked for 16 days to build out infrastructure to electrify 42 households, a school, a health outpost and a church in a rural north-central Guatemalan village. The team worked in conjunction with the NRECA International foundation which has implemented electrification programs across the globe for over 50 years.
Four linemen from Iowa electric cooperatives worked in Guatemala:
- Mike Berkenpas, North West Rural Electric Cooperative in Orange City
- Quentin Fisher, Linn County Rural Electric Cooperative in Marion
- Mat Kilgore, Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative in Estherville
- Bob Ruby, Access Energy Cooperative in Mount Pleasant
The 12-man crew installed 2.5 miles of line and two transformers on 45 poles erected across a mountainous, jungle-covered terrain without the use of high-tech equipment or machinery. The villagers dug holes for the power poles, carried the poles to their specific locations and helped pull wiring to supply the power, all by hand. Each home was wired for lighting and outlets.
The villagers live in extreme poverty and don’t have plumbing, running water or food refrigeration. They depend on farming to sustain them economically and produce corn, beans, cardamom seeds and other vegetables. Access to electricity will improve safety and save these villagers money as they will no longer need to purchase candles or batteries.
Before heading back home, the linemen presented each student in the village with a backpack containing supplies and new shoes and gave each household a water filtration bucket filled with supplies. The water filter will provide clean water for two years.
Chuck Soderberg, executive vice president and general manager of the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives, attended the lighting ceremony in the Guatemalan village which signified the end of the project and the beginning of electric service. “Bringing electricity to this remote area really takes us back to our cooperative roots of bringing opportunity to rural America in the 1930s and 40s,” remarked Soderberg. “It’s incredible to see how access to electricity improves quality of life and Iowa’s electric cooperatives are proud to be a part of this story.”
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IAEC Director of Communications