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Illinois Electric Cooperatives Electrify Villages in Bolivia

Volunteer Linemen provide communities with first-time electricity access

Bolivia Line Crew

The crew talks with a 96 year old man in the village of Lajas. He is very excited about getting electricity. ( L-R) Matt, Terry Riggins, Old man, Carlos Giacoman (CRE) Shannon Davis, Eric DeWitt, (Kneeling) Nelson Orquera (CRE)

SPRINGFIELD, IL.- Linemen from nine Illinois electric cooperatives brought power and opportunity to four Bolivian villages last week. The 12 linemen returned to Illinois safely after spending three weeks in central Bolivia constructing a power distribution system to 62 households and two schools.

“These three weeks in Bolivia were a life changer,” said Matt Eisenmenger, safety instructor for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives (AIEC). “Not only do I have a newfound appreciation for the blessings and opportunities we have here at home, but I’m also optimistic about the future of the villages we illuminated. I was honored to have the opportunity to power and empower the people, and it’s an experience I’ll long remember.”

“Our linemen worked tirelessly in challenging environments for three weeks, and we’re all proud to be part of such an important mission,” said Duane Noland, AIEC president and CEO, who attended the celebration. “The co-op spirit of service and our commitment to our global community is alive and well, and we all welcome the opportunity to share our expertise with communities thousands of miles away who can now have a promising future.”

A celebration was held on March 30 at the Lajas school, and was attended by the entire crew, village leaders, the mayor of Samaipata and several board members of Cooperativa Rural de Electrificación (CRE), the Bolivian cooperative.

During the trip, these volunteer linemen constructed almost 30 kilometers of power lines, and installed 21 transformers. Two schools and a facility for handicapped individuals were electrified.

“This mission involved helping CRE, a Bolivian electric cooperative, to extend the electric service to these remote areas,” said Phil Carson, NRECA Board president from Illinois who joined the team for the celebration. “NRECA has had a relationship with CRE that spans more than 50 years, and this work is a testament to our global commitment in helping expand access to reliable electricity to communities that were very much like ours 75 years ago.”

The trip was sponsored by AIEC and managed and coordinated by NRECA International.

NRECA International, an affiliate of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) has been working in developing countries since 1962. Today more than 300 member electric cooperatives support its work through monetary contributions, material donations, and sending hundreds of electric co-op linemen and employees abroad as volunteers.

Linemen and their respective cooperatives participating in the project are: Joseph Alexander and Ryan Little from Illinois Electric Cooperative; Timothy Baker and Bret Richards from Corn Belt Energy Corporation; Shannon Davis and Brannon Dasch from Tri-County Electric Cooperative; Eric Dewitt from McDonough Power Cooperative; Matt Eisenmenger from AIEC; William Fields, Jr., from Norris Electric Cooperative, Kurt Krohmer from Jo-Carroll Energy, Inc.; Terry Riggins from Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative; and Troy Shafer from Menard Electric Cooperative.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.NRECA International’s 50-year global commitment has helped provide electricity to more than 120 million people in 43 countries.

Each year, an average of 75 linemen, engineers, managers and other employees from America’s electric cooperatives travel as NRECA International volunteers to promote parts of the world. They travel to help bring electricity to communities and often, for the first time, to homes, schools and clinics.

This year, twelve linemen from Illinois will travel to Bolivia to lend their expertise in electrifying parts of the country. Bolivia is South America’s poorest country. In the countryside, poverty is widespread and deeply entrenched, particularly among the national’s majority indigenous population. About 60 percent of Bolivians live below the national poverty line. The percentage is higher in rural areas, where as many as three out of four people live in poverty. As a result, Bolivia’s rural communities tend to use outdated technologies, lag behind in best practices in natural resource management, struggle to maintain local infrastructure, face high unemployment rates and suffer from limited access to basic services.

NRECA International’s history in Bolivia dates back to 1962 when it helped to establish Bolivia’s Rural Electrification Cooperative (known as “CRE” in Spanish). Through the years, NRECA International has continued to partner with CRE and other electric cooperatives to develop dozens of rural electrification projects.

Each year, an average of 75 linemen, engineers, managers and other employees from America’s electric cooperatives travel as NRECA International volunteers to promote parts of the world. They travel to help bring electricity to communities and often, for the first time, to homes, schools and clinics.

This year, twelve linemen from Illinois will travel to Bolivia to lend their expertise in electrifying parts of the country. Bolivia is South America’s poorest country. In the countryside, poverty is widespread and deeply entrenched, particularly among the national’s majority indigenous population. About 60 percent of Bolivians live below the national poverty line. The percentage is higher in rural areas, where as many as three out of four people live in poverty. As a result, Bolivia’s rural communities tend to use outdated technologies, lag behind in best practices in natural resource management, struggle to maintain local infrastructure, face high unemployment rates and suffer from limited access to basic services.

NRECA International’s history in Bolivia dates back to 1962 when it helped to establish Bolivia’s Rural Electrification Cooperative (known as “CRE” in Spanish). Through the years, NRECA International has continued to partner with CRE and other electric cooperatives to develop dozens of rural electrification projects.