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Month: April 2019

Education is a luxury we can help them afford

Compared to past Project Indiana sites, San Jacinto has an advanced education system. The students have the opportunity to attend school through ninth grade. The primary and secondary school buildings each have three classrooms. And, there’s a computer lab just up the hill along the dirt and rocky road. The computer lab is home to eight antiquated Dell computers that have been powered by a generator until the Indiana lineworkers came.

The children are often malnourished and have poor dental health. They often drink contaminated water, preventive dental care is rare and a diet we’d considered balanced for our children is often unattainable. This leads to stunted development. And, if they’re hungry or don’t feel well, learning is difficult.

And, the children often don’t have the luxury of childhood. They start working almost as soon as they can walk. Everyone in the family is expected to work and contribute to the family’s subsistence livelihood. And, even when education could be a choice, labor is more valued so they go to work.

With the introduction of electricity, life should become easier and education will become a luxury they can afford. That corn they used to spend five hours a day grinding can now be done in 15 minutes. And, they can refrigerate it and use it another day. They’ll have light in their homes at night that will allow both adults and children to study after the sun goes down.

Not only do their homes have light now, but their dreams are seeing the light of day as well.

Their weakness is always the children.

As with every Project Indiana electrification project, our team of lineworkers is focused on the seemingly insurmountable task ahead of them. They’re driven to get it done safely and are willing to work long days – and often get it done ahead of schedule. San Jacinto was no different.

There is another similar thread that runs through every project: the children of these villages capture the hearts of even the most hardened linemen. And, the San Jacinto children left the same deep impression.

The linemen are humbled by the children. How happy they are with so little. Their joy and spirit, the way they follow and watch the linemen, ready to help and play and learn. They often remind the linemen of their own children back in the states – curious, eager for attention and innocent. But, the Guatemalan children live a much harder life. Just as they would for their own children, the linemen can’t help but want more for them – a better life than their parents have had.

That makes the project team work even harder. They demand more of themselves than anyone ever asks of them. They do it back home and they do it on a mountaintop. It wasn’t enough for them to just give their time. They also dug deep in their wallets for the children.

They collected $1,000 and bought new shoes for every child in the village. 156 pairs and then the market threw in another three dozen pairs for a total of 192. And, they still had money left so they bought two pinatas, fireworks and 10 soccer balls.

They’d been challenged to a soccer match in the large, flat field behind the Catholic Church. The Hoosiers nipped the home squad 1-0 on a goal-scoring kick by Northeastern REMC’s Brent Buckles. Must’ve been the new soccer balls.

The lights are on.

For the first time ever, the village of San Jacinto, Guatemala, has electricity and the lights are on in 90 homes, a school, two churches and a pump house.

To celebrate the occasion, the residents of the village hosted an “inauguration” ceremony today with the Project Indiana as the featured honorees. They were escorted into the village in parade-like style, followed by the national anthems of both countries, and remarks by officials.

The village residents will learn over time how to use electricity to improve their quality of life and to implement modern conveniences that we all take for granted. The things they have to work so very hard to accomplish and require great effort will become easier and they will develop new solutions and ways to support themselves. They’ve always had dreams and now they’re starting to develop plans.

Water and fire

Last night, the mayor of the Chahal municipality (a municipality is more like a county in the United States) invited representatives of Project Indiana to a council meeting after visiting San Jacinto during the day. Several representatives from the village also attended.

The council and the residents thanked the Project Indiana team for helping to bringing electricity to the village. They described the new lights after sunset as “beautiful.”

Project Indiana Board Chair Ron Holcomb offered to purchase a new electric water pump for the village so they can again have access to water within the village. In return, the village residents agreed to put new wood-fired cook stoves with ventilator pipes in the kitchens.

They currently cook over open fires inside the homes. The village residents have only ever known cooking with a wood fire and it will be very difficult to to change that. But, the ventilation afforded with a stove pipe will be a vast improvement for the indoor air quality of these residents.

A day of work…and recreation

The Project Indiana team worked until about Noon today and then spent the afternoon on a little rest and recreation.

The San Jacinto area is home to a beautiful natural attraction – several waterfalls. These are depicted on a map in a couple of the photos posted today. These waterfalls are just downstream from the hydroelectric generating plant that powers the rural areas of the region, including San Jacinto.

The project team also shared a bit of Hoosier recreation with their new Guatemalan friends. They worked together to make cornhole boards from scrap wood and the mad skills of village resident with a chainsaw. Another village resident used old jeans to stitch bean bags. And, now they have cornhole games in San Jacinto.