Volunteer Linemen from Jackson EMC Bring Electricity to Villages in Bolivia
(JEFFERSON, GA. May 29, 2018) – Four Jackson EMC linemen joined a volunteer team, sponsored by the NRECA International Foundation, which traveled to Bolivia to bring electricity to two remote villages in the Andes Mountains.
Jackson EMC partnered with Carroll EMC, Cobb EMC, Coweta-Fayette EMC, and Flint Energies to send a total of 11 linemen to build nine miles of line. Their work brought electricity to the agricultural villages of San Isidro and Murmutani, which had waited 10 years for access.
Gary Davis and Chris Wallace, journeyman linemen from Jackson EMC’s Gwinnett district, and Greg Angel and Tommy Minish, from the cooperative’s Neese district, were members of the team who brought light to 38 families.
The most significant challenge they faced was the high altitude, which made the team concerned about completing the assignment.
“You walked 10-15 feet and had to stop and catch your breath, so trying to climb a pole made it even harder at 13,000 feet above sea level,” Davis said.
“It was harder than expected,” Minish said. “It took us about four days to adjust to the altitude.”
Without modern equipment, the linemen walked pole to pole in hard terrain, often on the side of mountains.
“Their way of building lines is different; it’s really an old way,” Angel said. “So we had to step back in time.”
Minish added: “It was primitive work, back to the roots of line work. We didn’t have enough tools and it was all by-hand.”
“You put 11 linemen together for the first time, in high altitude, without the modern equipment we have at Jackson EMC, and it was remarkable what we were able to accomplish,” said Angel. After overcoming the initial challenges, the team finished the job a day early.
“The local villagers were very happy to see us and they were very excited and eager to help,” said Wallace.
Since they didn’t have a bucket truck or a cable puller, the villagers helped pull wire.
“One of my strongest memories is of a woman carrying a toddler on her back pulling wire up the side of the mountain where we were struggling just to walk,” said Minish.
Wallace explained his favorite memory of a 72-year-old man who farmed in the village his whole life. “He walked circles around everybody; he literally ran everywhere. He was so excited to work with us.”
After the villagers turned on the lights for the first time, they created a special celebration and presented the volunteer team with leis and sprinkled confetti on their heads, which is a traditional symbol of abundance Finally, they gave each lineman a hand-made alpaca wool hat.
Minish continued: “They will be able to grow and improve their communities. It reunited families. Children were living in the city with relatives because they didn’t have electricity to see their school work. Getting lights to these villages enabled the families to live together now.”
“It feels good to be part of a company making a difference,” Davis added.
This project was made possible by NRECA International, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization, whose mission is to increase individual and community access to electricity in all parts of the world.
Jackson Electric Membership Corporation, the largest electric cooperative in Georgia and one of the largest in the nation, is headquartered 50 miles northeast of Atlanta in Jefferson, Ga. The cooperative serves more than 227,000 meters on 14,000 miles of energized wire. For more information, visit jacksonemc.com.