Ohio electric cooperatives have a long history of bringing light to areas where it’s never before been available. In the 1930s, that meant neighbors helping neighbors bring electricity to the farms and homes in those rural parts of the state that for-profit utilities ignored. That spirit has, in more recent times, lit the way for us to carry the tradition beyond our borders.
In March, for the third time in five years, lineworkers from across Ohio’s electric cooperative network will venture to Guatemala. Our endeavor, Project Ohio 2020, benefits the 600 residents of Tierra Blanca Sebol, a village in the north-central region of the country, by connecting its 60 households as well as a school and a health post to the electric grid. While every project is different and each village unique, the work will be similar to our accomplishments in La Soledad (2016) and Las Tortugas/San Jorge (2018). We’ll install 3 miles of higher-voltage primary line to the village and 2.5 miles of lower-voltage secondary line throughout the community. We’ll also wire two light sockets and two receptacles into each household.
We know the effort will change lives.
By any measure, Guatemala is an impoverished country — and in rural areas, incomes are lower and opportunities even fewer. Essentials that we take for granted are unattainable without outside assistance, so electricity and the conveniences that it provides — light, heat, refrigeration, cooking, basic sanitation — are a game-changer for the community. Electricity means healthier food, cleaner water, more opportunity for education, and connection to the rest of the world. It brings light, yes, but more importantly, it brings hope.
Without modern equipment, but with help from the village residents, our lineworkers will set poles by hand and climb each one to install transformers, insulators, and wiring. The work will be physical and strenuous, the conditions hot and humid, and the challenge for our lineworkers immense.
We’ve seen it before, though, both here in the 1930s and on our previous trips to Guatemala: The first time someone flips that switch and turns on the lights, the work is worth it. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers this month, that we may complete a safe, successful, and enlightening mission.
Pat O'Loughlin is president and CEO of Ohio's Electric Cooperatives.