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North Central linemen help power Guatemala villages

 

Two North Central Electric Cooperative linemen were among a team of Ohio linemen who spent 18 days in Guatemala with Project Ohio, bringing electricity for the first time to two small impoverished villages.

Linemen Mike Stahl and Paul Weaver, along with Assistant Communications and Marketing Director Brian Barr, were welcomed home Thursday night at John Glenn Columbus International Airport by about 100 family, friends and coworkers.

Stahl and Weaver were among a team of 17 linemen from Ohio electric cooperatives who constructed distribution lines, installed all electrical services, meters, main panels, and all internal wiring for the villages of Las Tortugas and San Jorge in Guatemala. Barr served as Project Ohio’s documentarian, taking photos and video of the volunteer effort.

The team provided power to more than 140 households that have never had electricity.

Barr said the two small communities had been requesting electric service for several years, and the residents celebrated receiving electricity with fireworks and dancing.

Ohio’s linemen were not working alone. EMRE, the local electric distribution company, arranged for a local trade school to supply 15 electrical students, who assisted the Ohio team with the internal wiring efforts. A basic package of four lights and two receptacles were to be installed in each home with the ability to extend the facilities. A capacity of 150 kilowatt (KW) will be supplied by EMRE to the 140 homes, which received 120-volt, two-wire service.

Each household received a water filtration system so they no longer will no longer have to boil water before drinking. Many children also received shoes purchased with $20,000 in donations from Ohio cooperative employees and trustees.

Weaver said the biggest challenge was adjusting to the 95- to 100-degree weather after working several weeks in Ohio’s sub-freezing temperatures in the cooperative’s eight-county service area. The hotel they stayed in had no hot water, but it was a welcome relief after hot steamy days.

Stahl said the work was rewarding but relatively routine. However, their lengthy treks over rocky roads from their hotel to the small villages proved quite challenging.

“The biggest challenge was getting to the job,” Stahl said. “The road was the worst part. I wish I knew how rough the road was. The work is the work. That road was an understatement.”

“I volunteered because it was the right thing to do,” Weaver said. “Why shouldn’t I use my skills as a lineman to help people out? I had a lot of anxiety before going because I didn’t know what I was getting into, but it worked out. I loved interacting with the people in the village. I realized how good we have it here. What we have isn’t too bad. It could be worse.”

“I considered this a humanitarian project,” Stahl said. “I just volunteered to come down here, use my skills and help someone out.”

Weaver received a surprise when he returned home. His son was wearing a T-shirt that said “World’s Best Brother.” At that point Weaver learned that he and his wife Erica were expecting their second child.

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