Your Co-ops Abroad
Electric co-ops continue mission to light up Bolivia
A second group of volunteers from electric cooperatives in Missouri continued the effort to light up Bolivia last winter through a project called Brighter Bolivia. The electrification project is made possible through a partnership between the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s International Program with matching funds from the Cooperative Finance Corporation.
The first phase of the project took place Dec. 3-15 in a mountainous region of Bolivia in the state of Cochabamba at Chapisirca. That group built several miles of power lines and successfully brought power to many families located outside the village.
The second team left the U.S. Jan. 28 and will return to Chapasirca. They worked to extend the new power lines farther into the countryside. The second team consisted of:
Brian Robbins, Barry Electric Cooperative, Cassville
Jacob Fain, Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative, Kearney
Adam Helton, Central Electric Power Cooperative, Jefferson City
Joe Cartwright, Crawford Electric Cooperative, Bourbon
Hunter Ivie, Pemiscot-Dunklin Electric Cooperative, Hayti
Stetson Shirky, Osage Valley Electric Cooperative, Butler
Alternates are Jeremy Wooden, Boone Electric Cooperative and Brad Mick, Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative.
Electric cooperatives in Missouri have sent volunteers to other countries in the past. This was the second time the state has made a coordinated group effort to bring electricity to unserved areas. In August 2016, a team traveled to Riberalta in the Amazon region of Bolivia to build power lines that now bring electricity to two small villages.
Other electric co-op linemen have volunteered to work in Haiti, Guatemala and South Sudan. Those who have volunteered in the past call it a “life-changing experience.”
A local non-profit electric utility, ELFEC, assisted the volunteer linemen from Missouri on this project by setting the poles. The two teams of six volunteer electric cooperative linemen, along with team leader Craig Moeller from the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, built a total of 3.5 miles of power lines to serve more than 100 Bolivian families who previously lived without electricity.
All of the work was done at 13,000 feet, presenting a challenge for the Missouri linemen. The region has a poverty rate of 60 percent and it is estimated that 285,000 people here do not have electricity.
Worldwide, more than 1.6 billion people live without electricity. NRECA International seeks to brighten the lives of people in these developing nations by building power lines and donating equipment and materials that are no longer needed by U.S. electric cooperatives.
Past experience with these projects shows that electricity lets children attend school on a regular basis. It raises the standard of living for the entire family by lightening the burden for adults and providing running water, refrigeration and sanitation previously unavailable.
It also saves money for families that relied on expensive generators for just a few hours of power.
The original purpose of the International Program when it started in 1962 was to share lessons learned by U.S. electric cooperatives with those in developing nations. Over more than 50 years, the program has brought a better life to 110 million people.
You can learn more about the NRECA International at www.nrecainternational.coop.