Oregon co-ops prepare to electrify a small village in Guatemala

By Joseph Hathaway

Map of Guatemala
A dozen co-op lineworkers from Oregon travel to Dos Cruces, Guatemala, next month to electrify homes, schools and health centers. Adobe stock art by Peter Hermes Furian

A team of Oregon cooperative lineworkers will soon climb the steep hills in the Central American nation of Guatemala to bring electricity to an impoverished village, making villagers feel like they are on top of the world.

The Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association (ORECA), in partnership with Oregon co-ops, has selected a group of volunteers to electrify the small, isolated village of Dos Cruces next month.

The electrification project is a joint effort of Oregon’s electric cooperatives, which together serve more than 500,000 Oregonians.

The mission is coordinated through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) philanthropic arm, NRECA International.

Oregon Empowers initially organized an electrification project in 2020. It was canceled and subsequently delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are grateful for the positive response of Oregon co-op linemen who are willing to leave their homes and families for an extended period of time to empower far-away communities,” says Ted Case, executive director of ORECA. “Access to electricity will bring economic empowerment, better access to health care and enhanced safety for these villagers. It’s a life-changing gift.”

The project site is in the department (state) of Jalapa, east of Guatemala City. The team will work for up to three weeks wiring poles and homes to receive electricity for the first time. Upon completion, more than 30 homes, three schools and a health center will benefit from access to electricity.

Today, villagers live without running water, refrigeration or the use of electronic appliances. The team will work on a stretch of close to 2 miles in mountainous terrain to wire the village, as well as install 2 large transformers. Each home will be equipped with lightbulbs, light switches and electrical outlets.

“Bringing electricity to remote areas in developing countries takes electric cooperatives back to their roots,” Case says. “It is an honor to pay it forward. This mission reinforces our commitment to empower generations by improving the quality of life for local communities at home and abroad.”

Oregon’s electric cooperatives have established a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit, Oregon Empowers, to support this cause. All contributions are tax-deductible. To learn more, visit the Oregon Empowers website.