“Living without light is like being blind,” said Ana Maria Escobar, a member of the Dos de Junio community.”
Through a translator, she spoke with a team from the Missouri and Oklahoma statewide associations earlier this year. This summer, a team of volunteer linemen and engineers from these two states will join forces to electrify Dos de Junio and El Torito, both located in the Amazon Basin in northern Bolivia. The project will cover approximately 10 miles of line, use 250 poles and bring power to more than 360 families.
During this trip, the team met with staff and local linemen with whom they will be working from Cooperative Electrica Riberalta (CER) in Riberalta, a town close by. They met many community members who expressed their gratitude, and listened to many stories about living without electricity. The families living in this area moved here when the government of Bolivia offered plots of land to those who wanted to relocate from the towns. Electricity would come, they were told. Now, with the help of the NRECA International Foundation donors and the partnership with electric cooperatives in Missouri and Oklahoma, families here won’t live in the dark anymore.
The wooden houses in Dos de Junio have dirt floors, at times privacy walls to separate the sleeping and living areas, and deep water wells in the back dug far too close to the latrines. Flora Ramirez lives in one of these homes with five of her ten children, and would like to see electricity come soon so that she doesn’t have to walk around at night in the dark. “I am scared of men with machetes,” she said.
Lilian Maguayo, the president of the neighboring El Torito community, stressed how electricity is a basic right, not a luxury. With electricity, her community can have better healthcare and children can study at night, she said.
“You’re coming here to give us hope,” she added.
The work to build these lines will be labor intensive without the assistance of machinery more commonly used in the United States. Linemen will need to be physically prepared to do much climbing to perform the tasks for this project. And after the trip earlier this year, it’s doubtful that any will complain of the task at hand.
We will be reporting in the future about the work of Arkansas and Illinois co-ops in other parts of Bolivia. Stay tuned for these updates.