Manager’s Message — March 2020, Oregon Empowers

Oregon’s Electric Cooperatives Team Up to Electrify Guatemala

Oregon Empowers Guatamala 2020The Oregon Rural Cooperative Association and electric co-ops across Oregon are embarking on an ambitious project to electrify a remote village in the mountains of Guatemala. In April, a team of more than a dozen volunteer linemen and electrical experts from Oregon cooperatives will bring power to an area that has none, creating a foundation for the village to achieve future economic prosperity and experience an improved quality of life.

This electrification project, called Oregon Empowers Guatemala, is coordinated through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s philanthropic arm, NRECA International.

“Bringing electricity to regions that have none takes us back to our roots of rural electrification,” says Jeff Davis, Wasco Electric Cooperative general manager.

Volunteers will build an electrical distribution system in the village of Aldea Montanita de la Virgen in the district of Jalapa, a mountainous region in the southeastern part of the country. The village has 60 homes that typically consist of two to three rooms. The center of the village has three structures: a church, a community/health center, and a three-room schoolhouse—all without electricity. Locals live humbly without running water, food refrigeration or electric appliances. The community truly is a subsistence community.

Villagers live on what they grow, including corn, beans, bananas, watermelons, squash, fruits, chickens, turkeys, and game hens. They grow coffee to sell for income.

The Oregon Empowers team will wire all 60 homes and the three community buildings for electricity. The primary system will include 32 poles and four transformers on 3.1 miles of primary line and 2.5 miles of secondary line. Most of the terrain consists of steep hillsides.

The Oregon Empowers committee, comprised of cooperative leaders and trustees from the statewide association, selected a team of 13 volunteers for the upcoming trip.

“We are grateful for the overwhelming response of Oregon cooperative linemen who are willing to leave their homes for an extended period of time to empower far- away communities,” says Les Penning, CEO of Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative and chairman of the Oregon Empowers committee. “Access to electricity will bring economic empowerment, better access to health care and enhanced safety for these villagers.”

Oregon’s electric cooperatives have established a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit Oregon Empowers Foundation to support this cause. All contributions are tax-deductible.

For more details and to contribute to the project, visit the Oregon Empowers website.