Electric cooperatives were founded in the spirit of neighbor helping neighbor. Co-ops brought light to rural America, and that partnership lit the way for us to carry the tradition beyond our borders. In 2016, linemen from across Ohio’s electric cooperative network mirrored that effort for our international neighbors in Guatemala. We brought power to the village of La Soledad, changing lives, providing hope for the future — and providing perspective on the impact we can have on underserved people still today.
This month, we’re going back; the people of Las Tortugas in Guatemala’s rainforest region need our help. Guatemala remains one of the poorest countries in Latin America. More than 75 percent of Guatemalans live below the poverty line. In rural areas, it’s worse. Rural residents make up two-thirds of Guatemala’s population, yet they only comprise one-third of the country’s income and consumption. Little things can mean a lot to people living in such conditions.
We sent a small team to Las Tortugas in September 2017 for preliminary engineering and field planning with the region’s electric utility company. Early this month, 17 volunteers, primarily linemen, from cooperatives around Ohio are heading that way to bring electric service to the nearly 600 people who currently live in startlingly primitive conditions. Without electric service, so much of what we take for granted — refrigeration, sanitation, running water, lighting, motorized equipment — is nearly impossible. With help from students at a local trade school and many of the village’s residents, our volunteers will work long, hard days, in hot and humid conditions, connecting more than 100 homes to the modern world.
It’s going to be a long and difficult trip for those who have volunteered to leave their homes and families for the duration of the mission. The work will be performed the old-fashioned way — without the benefit of lift trucks and other modern equipment. All the poles will be climbed, all holes will be hand-dug, and all transformers will be manually raised.
We have already seen — both here in the 1930s and on our first trip to Guatemala in 2016 — that the time, the work, and the expense that these efforts require are all well spent on a brighter future. Please keep our men in your prayers as they spread the good fortune of our circumstances and goodwill of our people to those much less fortunate.
We brought power to the village of La Soledad, changing lives, providing hope for the future — and providing perspective on the impact we can have on underserved people.