Adults and children in the isolated, mountainous village of Sillab in north-central 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 Sillab this coming August. Two of the selected team members are our very own Dusty McNatt and Heath Gossen.
“We are proud to send Dusty and Heath as ambassadors for our co-op and for our state in this mission of providing first-time electricity to those who have none,” says CKenergy CEO, Clint Pack. “This type of commitment and concern for community speak to the value of the cooperative difference, which transcends borders.”
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 Foundation.
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 10 volunteers and designated two alternates for the upcoming trip. Ten additional volunteer linemen from Colorado will embark on this journey with their Oklahoma counterparts.
“We are grateful for the overwhelming 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 OAEC 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 Alta Verapaz, near the border with Belize. The volunteer linemen will work for a period of three weeks wiring poles and homes to receive first-time electricity. Upon completion, 60 homes, one elementary school and four churches will benefit from access to electric power.
The team of linemen will work on a stretch of six and half miles in mountainous terrain to wire 60 poles and install four transformers. Each home will be equipped with four lightbulbs, four light switches and four electrical outlets. The powerlines will belong to a local utility, ADECORK (Associación Para Desarollo Communitario Rax Kiche). Translation: Association for Community Development Rax Kiche. ADECORK will generate and distribute electric power to Sillab. The utility operates a small hydro plant with a capacity of 75 kilowatts (kw).
The villagers of Sillab grow corn for self-consumption and generate most of their income from the production of cardamon seeds, peppers, and coffee as well as a variety of other spices.
This project marks the fourth 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: http://tinyurl.com/energytrails