Central’s own lineman, Andrew Pool, was a part of the Energy Trails Guatemala team that electrified 65 homes in the isolated village of Chiis in northwestern Guatemala. The team, which was comprised of 13 linemen, electricians and engineers, represented Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives through the Oklahoma Energy Trails Foundation, a not-for-profit established by the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives in 2016 to support international electrification projects.
Electric cooperatives were the driver for rural electrification in America’s countryside, including rural Oklahoma, in the 1930s and 1940s. Today, however, there are still 1.2 billion people across the globe who live without access to electricity, reports the Energy International Agency. In a cooperative effort to increase access to electricity in developing nations, Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives have partnered with NRECA International, the philanthropic arm for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), to electrify this poverty-stricken village in rural Guatemala.
“Going to Guatemala and helping turn the lights on was the experience of a lifetime,” Andrew Pool says. “It was humbling to be able to witness what rural electrification pioneers experienced 80 years ago in rural Oklahoma.”
The volunteers stayed at a training center near the village during the period of October 10 to October 28. The village of Chiis sits atop a mountain at 2,700 feet in altitude. The project consisted of wiring 50 poles in challenging terrain and wiring 65 homes in the span of 3 miles of line. The village is isolated, economically vulnerable, and mainly produces beans, spices and corn for self-consumption. Most villagers speak a Mayan-based dialect, Kekchi. A local utility, ADECORK, will generate power to the village by way of a small hydroelectric plant and maintain the lines Oklahoma’s electric cooperative volunteers have built.
Despite communication barriers, the volunteers established friendships with local children and villagers.
“I will never forget the bond we created with the local kids,” Pool says. “I’m grateful we had the opportunity to help make a difference for them to have a better future.”
Access to electricity will enable villagers with more economic development opportunities, enhanced safety, increased access to education and overall improved quality of life.
“We are proud of our own, Andrew Pool, for his willingness to leave his home for an extended period of time to give the miracle of electricity to this village in Guatemala,” says Central Electric Cooperative CEO, David Swank. “His service speaks to the value of the cooperative difference and reinforces one of our core principles, ‘Concern for Community.’ We are grateful for the opportunity to show the cooperative spirit not only at home, but also abroad.”
All contributions to the Oklahoma Energy Trails Foundation, a 501(c)3 are tax-deductible. To learn more, visit: http://tinyurl.com/energytrails