Volunteers from electric cooperatives in Missouri will continue the effort to light up Bolivia this winter through a project called Brighter Bolivia. The electrification project is made possible through a partnership between the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s International Program.
The project will take place December in a mountainous region of Bolivia in the state of Cochabamba at Chapisirca. The region has a poverty rate of 60 percent and it is estimated that 285,000 people here do not have electricity.
Recently the Brighter Bolivia team from Missouri was selected from among 14 volunteers at electric cooperative systems. Those selected for the project are:
Casey Schwartze, Three Rivers Electric Cooperative, Linn
Danny Derry, Grundy Electric Cooperative, Trenton
Eric Peeper, NW Electric Power Cooperative, Cameron
Jared Kelley, SEMO Electric Cooperative, Sikeston
Jonathan Schussler, Osage Valley Electric Cooperative, Butler
Tim Gilbert, Boone Electric Cooperative, Columbia
Two alternates have been selected to step in if someone is unable to go unexpectedly. They are Brian Robbins, Barry Electric Cooperative, Cassville, and Jacob Fain, Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative, Kearney
Electric cooperatives in Missouri have sent volunteers to other countries in the past. This is the second time the state has made a coordinated group effort to bring electricity to unserved areas. In August 2016, a team traveled to Riberalta in the Amazon region of Bolivia to build power lines that now bring electricity to two small villages.
Other electric co-op linemen have volunteered to work in Haiti, Guatemala and South Sudan. Those who have volunteered in the past call it a “life-changing experience.”
A local electric cooperative, Cooperativa Rural De Electrificación, will assist the volunteer linemen from Missouri on this project by setting the 70 poles. Six volunteer electric cooperative linemen, along with team leader Craig Moeller from the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, will build 3.5 miles of power lines to serve Bolivians who currently live without electricity.
Much of the work will be done at 13,000 feet, presenting a challenge for the Missouri linemen.
Worldwide, more than 1.6 billion people live without electricity. The International Program seeks to brighten the lives of people in these developing nations by building power lines and donating equipment and materials that are no longer needed by U.S. electric cooperatives.
Past experience with these projects shows that electricity lets children attend school on a regular basis. It raises the standard of living for the entire family by lightening the burden for adults and providing running water, refrigeration and sanitation previously unavailable.
It also saves money for families that relied on expensive generators for just a few hours of power.
The original purpose of the International Program when it started in 1962 was to share lessons learned by U.S. electric cooperatives with those in developing nations. Over more than 50 years, the program has brought a better life to 110 million people.
You can learn more about the NRECA International Program at www.electric.coop/our-mission/international-electrification/.