Linemen electrify two Guatemalan villages

Fifteen Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas linemen, including Randy Evans of First Electric Cooperative, recently completed a mission to electrify two remote Guatemalan villages near Huehuetenango. Approximately 320 villagers received electricity for their homes.

After a year of planning, the men arrived in Guatemala on March 27 and then traveled approximately nine hours northwest to the remote villages of Las Flores and La Hacienta to “light up” the land, said Mel Coleman, CEO of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative of Salem and vice president of the NRECA board of directors.

“This project was labeled as impossible in 2005,” said Mauricio Cobon Mazariegos, a village leader. “We were told that we should stop, but we continued working for our children and the future of our villages. Thank you for helping us.”

Linemen and their respective cooperatives that participated in the project are: Kenneth Byrd  and Christopher Tedford, Arkansas Valley Electric of Ozark; James Ray Hassebrock and Mark Wayne Tomiello, Carroll Electric Cooperative of Berryville; Michael Counts and Craig Weisenbach, Clay County Electric of Corning; Shawn Dorflinger and Richard Freeland, Ouachita Electric of Camden; Don Pinkley and Joe Cooksey, Ozarks Electric of Fayetteville; Steve Rooney, Petit Jean Electric of Clinton; and Jimmy Dean Sharp and Todd Spakes, Southwest Arkansas Electric of Texarkana. Doug Evans, safety manager for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, served as the project coordinator.

“Today your dreams come true,” said Coleman, as he addressed hundreds of villagers at a celebration event April 6 in Las Flores. “Many years ago, men and women in our state and nation worked to receive electricity just like you did. Thanks to the work of these dedicated linemen and the support of many others back home you have reached your goal.”

In addition to constructing power lines, the men assisted in distributing more than 1,000 pairs of shoes, hundreds of pairs of eye glasses, Bibles and other items to the villagers prior to departing the villages. The items were donated by Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas employees from across the state. Additionally, about $1,000 was donated by employees.

“Electric cooperative employees are dedicated to serving others and improving the quality of life for their friends and neighbors,” said Duane Highley, president/CEO of the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. “The linemen on this mission volunteered their time and skills to provide the gift of light to these remote villages, and the remainder of the state’s electric cooperative employees showed their support by their generous donations.”

Combined with a 2013 project, Arkansas electric cooperative linemen have assisted in providing electric service to more than 770 rural Guatemala residents that otherwise would not have service. John Hawkins and Kevin Riddle, First Electric crew chiefs in Perryville and Stuttgart, respectively, assisted on the 2013 project.