What an incredible journey it has been! The initial team from the Missouri and Oklahoma statewide associations visited Riberalta, Bolivia to learn more about the electrification project that will take place later this year.
Our team of six visited two villages, El Torito & Dos de Junio in the outskirts of Riberalta. The areas are rural and remote, lacking electricity and road infrastructure. Local residents met with the group and shared how they are greatly anticipating having electricity.
Our team of line safety professionals met with local linemen from Cooperative Electrica Riberalta (CER) to evaluate the project and learn where poles and powerlines will be built. The project will span 16 Km (nearly 10 miles) and will include approximately 250 poles. This work will electrify homes for 360-plus families. Safety directors Craig Moeller (MO) and Wade Hurst (Oklahoma) said 12 volunteer linemen will be needed to complete this project, along with the help of local lineworkers. The work that will take place to build these lines will be manual-intensive as the cooperative in Riberalta does not own the same equipment used in the U.S. such as bucket trucks, digger trucks, battery-operated hand tools, gas-powered drills. Most of CER’s equipment line is very outdated. Volunteer linemen need to be physically prepared to do much climbing to perform the tasks for this project.
During the trip we had the privilege of meeting local resident, Saul. He welcomed us into his home and showed to us how he lives without electricity. Saul is an older gentleman who lives with his daughter in the village of Dos de Junio. He is eager to have electricity to improve his quality of life (see photos below).
Saul and his daughter cook food in minimal quantities since they do not have a way to conserve food items. They wash clothes by hand with water that comes from a well. They draw water manually from the well. Their bathroom is an outhouse facility, very primitive. Saul has a cell phone, but he needs to go to the town of Riberalta to pay for a recharge. During the day, he enjoys sunlight to care for his farming duties. At night, he goes through many candle sticks to have light.
Thanks to generous volunteers in the U.S., Saul’s life will be empowered. His neighbors will see a better quality of life. We believe a brighter future starts with power.