Bringing Light & Hope

Indiana electric co-op line workers continue mission in rural Guatemala

Posted on May 30 2017 in Features

Indiana’s electric cooperatives put boots on the ground — and into the clouds — to bring electricity to a remote and mountainous village in Guatemala in March.

“Project Indiana: Empowering Global Communities for a Better Tomorrow” electrified a part of the Central American country where no electricity was available as part of an international initiative. The crew of 16 Indiana co-op lineworkers and three supervisors, supported by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s international program, electrified the village of El Zapotillo near Guatemala’s southwestern border with Mexico.

Working sometimes as high as 10,000 feet in the mountains, the team electrified 60 homes, a school, a church and a clinic with 31 miles of power line — all built by hand and without the aid of modern conveniences such as bucket trucks.

This was the Indiana electric cooperatives’ third trip to Guatemala. In August 2012, 28 Hoosier lineworkers spent four weeks working in the same mountainous area. In April 2015, 14 lineworkers battled heat and rugged terrain in the northern part of the country.

Photos by Ron Holcomb, CEO at Tipmont REMC


A perch with a view: NineStar Connect lineman Jamie Bell assembles hardware atop a pole in the Guatemalan mountain village of El Zapotillo — with the country’s southwestern mountains and the mountains of southern Mexico in the near and far distance.

Clark County REMC lineman Kevin Porter gives a “thumbs up” with two Guatemalan boys as he takes a break while building a power line near their home. In March, 16 Indiana linemen and three supervisors built 31 miles of line in southwestern Guatemala.

In the Guatemalan village of El Zapotillo, women go about their daily chores — often with their youngest children strapped onto their backs. Hoping to give the people of the rural, mountainous village a brighter future — especially the youngest like this child — 16 Indiana electric cooperative linemen spent two weeks in March building power lines to bring them electricity.

A caravan of women carries jugs filled with water to the village cistern from a well farther down the mountain. The cistern normally collects rainwater. But when there is not enough for cooking and bathing, a group of 30-40 woman makes the trek to the well once or twice a day. The jugs are made of a relatively light plastic. With the electric power brought by Indiana’s co-op line crews, an electric pump may some day do this necessary chore.

Local villagers lug a 700-pound pole up the steep slopes on their shoulders. As with both previous trips to Guatemala, Indiana’s electric cooperative crews found the local men more than ready and willing to do most of the heavy lifting and physically demanding labor.

On this trip to Guatemala, Indiana’s crew set only one pole; over 50 others had been previously set by the local villagers. But without the modern conveniences of digging trucks with augers, hoists and booms, the holes are all dug by hand and the poles are lifted with ropes and pushed into place using long sticks.

An electric corn grinder waits for power. This machine will take a 5-hour daily task and reduce it to about 10 minutes. Villagers will also be able to store the ground corn in a refrigerator and not have to do this task every day.

Kosciusko REMC lineman Isaac Harp presents gifts his daughters made to two young girls in the village.

First light: A young girl stands outside her home as a lightbulb cuts through the loom of mountain mist and descending darkness. Indiana crews had just closed the fuse on the transformer nearby to bring the flow of electricity to the home for the first time. The family stepped out to see what was going on.

The crew of 16 Indiana electric cooperative linemen, supported by Indiana Electric Cooperatives supervisors Gayvin Strantz, Terry Adkins and Scott Willett, served in Guatemala March 12-26.
• Scott Adkins, WIN Energy REMC • Tyler Asbell, Dubois REC, Inc. • Jamie Bell, NineStar Connect • Michael Bowman, Boone REMC • Jesse Fisher, SCI REMC • Jerry Garcia, Noble REMC • Jason Gates, Tipmont REMC • Travis Goffinet, Southern Indiana Power • David Guthrie, Jackson County REMC • Isaac Harp, Kosciusko REMC • Josh Maggart, Miami-Cass REMC • Duane Monroe, Jay County REMC • Derrick Mullins, Whitewater Valley REMC • Kevin Porter, Clark County REMC • Mike Wagner, Southeastern Indiana REMC • Robert White, Orange County REMC

• Visit the 2015 trip to Guatemala

• Visit the the 2012 trip to Guatemala