For the second time in as many years, United Power lineman Kelly Snow will represent the cooperative in Guatemala. Snow has been selected to return later this summer as part of a crew of 20 linemen from Colorado and Oklahoma to provide power to yet another isolated jungle village.
This past summer, Snow spent three weeks near Playa Grande setting poles, stringing line and hanging transformers to provide power to residents in two remote jungle villages for the first time.
“It’s really an honor to be invited back,” Snow said. “Most of us have never had to go more than a day without electricity and the benefits it provides. These villages have never had that experience.”
Sillab, the village they’ll be energizing in October, is located in the mountainous jungles of north central Guatemala. Sillab is home to approximately 60 households, one elementary school and four churches, none of which have known the benefits of reliable and affordable electricity.
While much of the work will be the same, the terrain presents a new difficulty for Snow and his fellow linemen. Crews will have to overcome harsh conditions in order to string electric line more than six miles to Sillab, including dense jungle foliage, mountainous terrain, frequent rain and high humidity.
Harsh conditions and grueling manual labor contributed to fatigue and dehydration in the relatively flatter areas of Playa Grande.
“You don’t quickly forget the experience of working in the rain and humidity,” Snow said. “But steep inclines add another level of safety we’ll have to prepare for and pay careful attention to during the project.”
In Playa Grande, long days seemed longer without access to major equipment, a condition that will also worsen in Sillab.
With a few spare linemen and some light equipment, the utility near Playa Grande was able to provide a little help. The utility and power supplier near Sillab have only one lineman each and no equipment.
“It will be tough, physical labor,” Snow said, “but I’m proud to be a part of it. At the end of the day, if you can be proud of what you did, the pain and the challenge is worth it.”
For more than 80 years, electric cooperatives have been helping small, rural communities across the country thrive. It’s one of the seven cooperative principles: concern for community. With the help of NRECA International, cooperatives have been able to take that mission global, providing millions of small communities with the gift of electricity.
“This is why we were founded – bringing power to rural America,” Snow said. “The impact electricity makes on one of these villages is tangible and opens up doors to future possibilities.”