MVEA Helps Bring Electricity to Guatemalan Village

— MVEA lineman turns on lights for the first time in La Montanita de la Virgen, Guatemala–

October 2022, Falcon, CO – Imagine living without electricity, cooking without electricity, washing your clothes without electricity, not having a television, or not being able to flip a switch to have light or heat. Those were the conditions for a small village in Guatemala, La Montanita de la Virgen located in the region of Jalapa, east of Guatemala City, before 16 lineworkers from Colorado and Oklahoma volunteered to electrify their small town. One of those lineworkers was Mountain View Electric Association’s lineman Nathaniel Pennell.

“I was originally selected as an alternate but found out about three weeks before the trip that I would be going,” Nathaniel said. “My wife, Stephanie, encouraged me to go. We both thought it would be an awesome opportunity and expand my horizons.”

Because of the extreme terrain, the hot weather, and the dense jungle, it took three weeks for the electric cooperative volunteers to build 5.5 miles of powerline, install six transformers, and wire 84 structures, including one elementary school and two churches. Each home received four lightbulbs, two light switches, and two electrical outlets, also installed by the 16-lineworker crew. The villagers set 77 poles, prior to the lineworkers’ arrival.

“Safety is always a top priority, no matter the location. Because we were without a lot of our typical equipment, everyone was even more alert and attentive.” Nathaniel said. “Each day we had safety job briefings, a team lead, and everyone knew their assignments.”

The “typical home” in the village has been described as an adobe-style building with dirt floors, a wood-fired cooking area, and an elevated platform for sleeping. The fire in the home is kept going all day long.

“The village was poor, but also rich. Even though the people don’t have much, they are very connected to their family and their community. They are genuine people full of energy, laughs, and love. The community was welcoming and very appreciative that we were there,” Nathaniel said. “I feel our work will improve their lives greatly; they can now see in their homes at night – something simple we take for granted.”

Not only did the electric co-op volunteers bring light to the village, but they also brought clean water in the form of a water filter for every home, and backpacks full of school supplies for every child.

“The experience was life changing. My biggest takeaway was that we don’t need so much stuff. The locals have so much joy when they talk about their family – it is apparent their lives are full of love,” Nathaniel said. “I think all young linemen should have this opportunity – it would be good for them to see how everything can be done by hand and give them an even deeper appreciation for the technology we have in the United States. I would encourage my fellow MVEA linemen to volunteer to bring electricity to those without.”

Electric cooperatives have a long-standing tradition of bringing lights where there are none. Collectively, Colorado’s electric cooperatives have made possible nearly 300 first-time electric connections in four villages in Central America. The staff and board of directors at MVEA have been very supportive of these efforts and have sent three linemen to the past two electrification projects.

Colorado’s electric cooperatives have established a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, Colorado Electric Educational Institute, to support this cause; three projects have been sponsored since 2018. All contributions to CEEI are tax-deductible. Learn more at https://crea.coop/community-outreach/current-causes/.