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Powerful LivingPowerful Living Keeping the lights on 2,000 miles away


Child doing homework by candlelight in the village of Dos de Junio near Riberalta, Bolivia. Photo by Noah Friedman-Rudovsky


By Zuraidah Hoffman I


n 2015, 76 volunteer linemen from 20 differ- ent states represented America’s electric co- operatives while traveling around the globe to bring light to rural communities. For many of the men, women and children who live in these areas, it was the fi rst time they ever had electricity in their homes. This was also the fi rst time children did not have to read by candlelight at night, and women could safely walk home un- der bright street lights. And for the fi rst time, these communities could step out of subsistence living—just like rural America did 75 years ago. In 2016, Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives are going to send a team of volunteers to work an electrifi cation project via NRECA International. Read more about this project on Page 8. Last year, when volunteer linemen answered the call to serve in Haiti, Guatemala and the Philippines, their commitment to make a power- ful difference in the global community also helped us keep our lights on here at home. As we look back to the harsh winter months when co- op linemen were out in force to repair downed power lines, we are grateful. But we also want to thank them for their historic undertaking. No other industry in the U.S. sends its volunteer rank and fi le into remote corners of the develop-


CREC, based in Stillwater, Okla., has added ATVs and UAVs to its fl eet to assist line crews in restoring outages more quickly. Photos by Larry Mattox/CREC


ing world to make such a profound difference. When linemen worked in the mountains of Guatemala without modern equipment to install power lines, their legislative representatives in Washington, D.C., paid attention. When electric co-ops nationwide banded together to ensure that our electricity remains affordable, our col- lective international work strengthened our base, and our voices were heard. When exhausted and proud linemen returned from Haiti after spending weeks with communi- ties that have very little, their newfound perspec- tives inspired many others to be like them. These volunteers became passionate and articulate am- bassadors for their co-ops, who are now looking for the next generation of hard working and ded- icated members of the co-op family. And when the volunteers returned from their travels with realizations that they have many things in common with the families in these small villages, they got a taste of what their grandparents must have experienced more than seven decades ago. The seventh cooperative prin- ciple—concern for community—came to life and became very real. Since 1962, NRECA International has provid- ed people in developing countries with access to safe, reliable and affordable electricity. The NRECA International Foundation is the


philanthropic arm of NRECA, and is supported solely through voluntary donations. More than 300 electric cooperatives and many private orga- nizations contribute time, skills, money and ma- terials to dozens of projects in Asia, Africa the Caribbean and Latin America. When help is needed, the Foundation recruits volunteers from electric co-ops to lend their technical expertise for ongoing construction efforts for electric util- ities, and extending power lines to rural communities. For the 110 million people who have benefi t- ted from our work, life has changed and im- proved through better education, personal security, healthcare, cleaner water and economic opportunity.


And for us at home, these volunteer linemen are family and role models. Their dedication to local and international communities will help electric co-ops communicate who we are and what we do to representatives in Washington, D.C.—because it all really starts with power.


Zuraidah Hoffman writes on international consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based ser- vice arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not- for-profi t electric cooperatives.


APRIL 2016 7


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