United We Light: Project Bolivia
SEC lineman volunteers to light Bolivia
Fifteen volunteer electric cooperative line workers, including Southside Electric Cooperative’s (SEC) Scott Diggs, have recently returned from rural Bolivia after bringing the gift of power to five communities that lacked access to electricity.
The initiative, “United We Light: Project Bolivia,” was sponsored by the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives in conjunction with National Rural Electric Cooperative Association International (NRECA International) and support from the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation.
“As an electric cooperative, we are grateful to be able to help deliver the gift of electricity to rural communities at home and abroad," said SEC President & CEO Jeff Edwards. "The five Bolivian communities these linemen visited have access to a greater quality of life with electricity now in their homes. We are proud of Scott and the other linemen for their generosity and hard work, all while sacrificing weeks away from their families.”
“In America, electricity touches nearly every aspect of our lives,” added Brad Furr, SEC vice president of operations. “We live with it every day. Some in developing countries are not so fortunate. The NRECA International project in Bolivia allows us to play a part in bringing electricity to homes for the first time.”
The crew flew as a team Sept. 4 from Reagan National Airport to Miami, where they boarded another plane to Santa Cruz, the largest city in Bolivia. From there, they embarked on a third flight to Cochabamba, followed by a six-hour van ride to Challapata, a municipality in the City of Oruro.
The line workers were divided into two teams for 12 days of work on 11 miles of power line. Among their duties: construct primary and secondary lines; string, sag and tie in conductors on the structures; hang transformers and make connections; and provide hands-on training to local utility workers. In all, 52 households were powered.
“This was definitely a feel-good trip, it was amazing,” said Scott Diggs, SEC line technician supervisor. “I’m glad I did it. It was tough work, but the people were so welcoming. We were made to feel like we were a part of the community. They were very grateful because their living conditions were substandard and they lived off the land. They didn’t have anything -- but they were happy.”
In addition to Diggs, the group included line workers from A&N Electric Cooperative, Tasley, Va.; BARC Electric Cooperative, Millboro, Va.; Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, Lovingston, Va.; Choptank Electric Cooperative, Denton, Md.; Northern Neck Electric Cooperative, Warsaw, Va.; Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, Fredericksburg, Va.; and Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative, Rockingham, Va. The line workers returned home on Sept. 21.
The trip is the first time the VMD Association has sponsored an overseas electrification project with NRECA International, which is an affiliate of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) and has been providing power to unserved areas in rural Bolivia since 1962.