Illinois electric cooperatives electrify villages in Bolivia

Linemen from nine Illinois electric cooperatives brought power and opportunity to four Bolivian villages in March. The 12 linemen returned to Illinois safely after ­spending three weeks in central Bolivia constructing a power ­distribution system to 62 households and two schools.

“These three weeks in Bolivia were a life changer,” said Matt Eisenmenger, safety instructor for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives (AIEC). “Not only do I have a newfound appreciation for the blessings and oppor­tunities we have here at home, but I’m also optimistic about the future of the villages we illuminated.”

During the trip, these volunteer linemen constructed almost 30 kilometers of power lines, and installed 21 transformers. Two schools and a facility for handicapped individuals are now receiving electricity from Rural de Electrificación (CRE), a Bolivian electric cooperative.

“This mission involved helping CRE to extend the electric service to these remote areas,” said Phil Carson, NRECA board president from Illinois who joined the team for the celebration. “NRECA has had a relationship with CRE that spans more than 50 years, and this work is a testament to our global commit­ment in ­helping expand access to reliable electricity to communities that were very much like ours 75 years ago.”

The trip was sponsored by AIEC and managed and coordinated by NRECA International. NRECA International, an affiliate of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) has been working in developing countries since 1962. Today more than 300 member electric cooperatives support its work through monetary contributions, material donations, and sending hundreds of electric co-op linemen and employees abroad as volunteers.

Linemen and their respective cooperatives participating in the project are: Joseph Alexander and Ryan Little from Illinois Electric Cooperative; Timothy Baker and Bret Richards from Corn Belt Energy Corporation; Shannon Davis and Brannon Dasch from Tri-County Electric Cooperative; Eric Dewitt from McDonough Power Cooperative; Matt Eisenmenger from AIEC; William Fields, Jr., from Norris Electric Cooperative; Kurt Krohmer from Jo-Carroll Energy, Inc.; Terry Riggins from Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative; and Troy Shafer from Menard Electric Cooperative. The linemen from Illinois and Bolivia took time for a group photo. The Illinois linemen are in yellow.