Building better tomorrows

Electric co-op lineworkers bring power and light to a Guatemalan village

Posted on Jun 25 2023 in Features
Heeke and Bassett - Project Indiana
Working on a power pole at 11,000 feet above sea level provides a different perspective than along the county roads of central Indiana or even in the hills and hollows of southern Indiana. Clint Heeke, left, from Southern Indiana Power, and Matt Bassett, of Tipmont, take in a view as they prepare a pole for wiring. Photo by Ron Holcomb.

The Guatemalan villager stood just inside the door frame of the cabin she shares with her husband in Peña Roja, high in the mountains near Mexico. Asked what she thought about the momentous event about to occur — electricity in her home for the first time — she said rather matter-of-factly through an interpreter, “What am I going to think? I’m happy because I can see.”

She flipped the switch installed beside the door and a bare LED bulb lit up above and behind her right shoulder. This brought a broad smile to her weathered face.

Down the mountain, her husband boiled water so the 14 Indiana electric cooperative lineworkers who brought electric power to the tiny remote village could have hot showers. When told he now had electricity in his home, tears welled in his eyes.

“To know energy is already in my house … thank you,” he said in the Spanish dialect of northwestern Guatemala. Through an interpreter, he said, “Thank you to Indiana for sending you to this place. Thank you for remembering these poor and humble people. Here we are, very happy to have you here in front of us and that you continued to have us in your heart. Hopefully, we continue having this kind of happiness.”

Bringing hope is the mission of Project Indiana — subtitled Empowering Global Communities for a Better Tomorrow.

Children in Pena Roja
Children from the village of Peña Roja, high in the mountains of Guatemala, enjoy sweets provided by Project Indiana linemen while they work on bringing power to their homes.  

For just over two weeks in late April and May, the lineworkers from Indiana electric cooperatives continued the international initiative to bring electricity to developing remote areas of Guatemala. This excursion, the fifth since Indiana began sending crews to the country in 2012, took them to elevations of 11,000-12,000 feet in the western mountains near the Mexican border.

When completed, 26 homes had electricity for the first time. The project team noticed the villagers moving a chest freezer into one of the homes at which power had been turned on. The villagers had been anticipating this time for so very long, and they were anxious to begin using modern appliances. This freezer will enable them to preserve things like meat so they can have regular protein in their diets.

“It’s a great opportunity to help improve their quality of living and give the children a better future,” said Kevin Bay, a lineman from JCREMC, headquartered in Franklin, making his second Project Indiana trip.

Once work was completed in Peña Roja, the Project Indiana team assisted the local cooperative with some necessary maintenance to several poles on the Mexican border, and they celebrated alongside their new friends from Peña Roja.

A few from the team had quietly made a “short” trip to the community of Cuilco to do a little shopping for gifts. After pooling their money, the team returned with 65 pairs of shoes, 65 coloring books, four soccer balls, piñatas, fireworks and some backpacks. Each Peña Roja child received a new pair of shoes and a coloring book. The lineworkers offered a version of a cornhole contest to give away the backpacks. They played soccer with the children and celebrated the festive day with fireworks and piñatas.

The next trip is already being planned for 2025.

More photos and information can be found at

Pena Roja woman flipping switch
After flipping a new light switch by her cabin door, a Peña Roja resident looks back over her shoulder at the LED bulb bringing electric light for the first time to the home she shares with her husband. He teared up when he learned electricity was now in his home as he boiled water over a wood fire farther down the mountain so Indiana electric cooperative linemen could have hot showers. Photo by Chris Todd.

2023 Project Indiana Crew
Project Indiana’s 2023 crew pauses for a photo at a worksite along the Guatemalan-Mexican border as they wrapped up their work. Photo by Ron Holcomb.

Project Indiana Crew

Project Crew

Matt Bassett, Tipmont

Kevin Bay, JCREMC

Michael Bowman, Boone REMC

Cody Campbell, South Central Indiana REMC

Nathan Clayton, Clark County REMC

Collin Crabtree, Decatur County REMC

Ethan DeWitt, Northeastern REMC

Austin Gearlds, NineStar Connect

Tom Gettinger, Henry County REMC

Clint Heeke, Southern Indiana Power

Frank Leach, Carroll White REMC

Terry Minic, Paulding Putnam Electric Cooperative, Inc.

Jason Morrison, Jackson County REMC

Michael Newlin, Orange County REMC

Support Team

Joe Banfield, Indiana Electric Cooperatives

Jamie Bell, NineStar Connect

Ron Holcomb, Tipmont

Chris Todd, Northeastern REMC

You can help support Project Indiana

To support Project Indiana, visit All donations are tax deductible. One hundred percent of your donation will be used to help those who currently do not have access to the opportunities we take for granted.