Memories remain from life-changing experience
Eighteen months ago, 18 Indiana electric cooperative linemen and support personnel returned home from rural Guatemala after bringing electricity to a village that had never had electricity before. It was the fourth Project Indiana trip to rural and remote Guatemala since 2012.
“Project Indiana: Empowering Global Communities for a Better Tomorrow” is a non-profit organization formed by Indiana’s electric cooperatives with the vision of bringing electricity to developing rural communities around the globe and providing other ongoing support for the residents there to enjoy better, healthier lives.
The March 24-April 9, 2019 trip was a life-changing trip for the villagers of San Jacinto in eastern Guatemala. But it also was for the linemen.
Linemen spend their careers literally lighting up people’s lives and working on energized line. But most would not be characterized as the “light and lively” sort or “live wires.” They work 40 feet up off the ground, or into the clouds on previous Guatemala trips, but for the most part, they are down to earth guys who are hard working and humble and, while working, are serious and professional without bravado or braggadocio.
With over a year’s time since their return, the linemen were asked to share some of their memories from the 2019 trip. Here are some reflections from three of the 14 linemen.
Line Foreman, Whitewater Valley REMC
It has been just over a year since my return from San Jacinto, Guatemala. What an absolutely unforgettable and humbling trip that was.
To go help people thousands of miles away in another country, to get to experience the way people in remote villages in Guatemala live on a day-to-day basis, unbelievable. I am so grateful, so happy and so honored to have gotten to participate on such a fantastic mission to light up another part of the world. You simply cannot put it into words!
It was the most amazing thing I have ever done with the best group of guys that anyone could ask for.
All I want to know is: When’s the next trip? And I pray I will be a part of another Project Indiana crew in the near future. Thanks Indiana Electric Cooperatives and Whitewater Valley REMC for such a humbling and life-changing experience!
I think about my trip to Guatemala daily — from the beautiful weather and scenery to the smiling faces everywhere we went.
I remember the homes with dirt floors and handmade hammocks as beds, and the meal a mother of nine was making on a bicycle wheel over the fire.
I remember the first time meeting all of the other linemen who went, but it was as if we were lifelong friends from the start. I think about how Willy and Carlos, two young Guatemalans who left their families and friends and traveled across the country to be our translators because it was a good paying job.
I think about another man named David who rode his motorcycle an hour each way to be a teacher, and then come home to help us wire the homes in his village for electricity. And he would still be laughing and smiling the whole day!
I think about Edgar who sought me out every day to learn as much as he could about being an electrician so he could have a skill and a job once we left.
I think about all of the wonderful children laughing and following us around, peeking around the corners to see what we were doing and holding their hands in circles so we would give them candy.
If there is one thing I think of most about my trip to Guatemala it is with everything we gave the village of San Jacinto — electricity, gifts, skills, memories — I wish I could have given more!
Marshall County REMC
As I ponder the significance of my part in the trip, I often land on the thought that I didn’t set or climb any poles; I didn’t string any primary wire. When I think my role in the project was minimal, I’m quickly reminded of five young men. Had it not been for my participation in this trip, they would not have learned how to wire the interior of their homes, learned how to make proper connections in light boxes or learned how to correctly connect receptacles or light switches.
Although the glory in a lineman’s world is to do the difficult things others can’t, the interior wiring was necessary.
When you have such an impact on people’s lives, it’s not hard to reflect on the times you had. Once we returned from being isolated from “the world,” if you would, you think: That is how the Guatemalans live ALL THE TIME. It’s humbling when I look back on that. Upon returning, life as we know it doesn’t change, but what comes with it is a sense of humility when you see how other people live and are happy with so much less than what we enjoy.
The thing that stands out the most to me is the friendships I made with “my guys” — the ones that went out with me every day, packed like a mule, climbing up and down the mountainous area in search of that next home to wire. The laughs we had, the conversations, however broken, and the bond that we’ll forever share.
I would love to go back and help others in Guatemala or wherever. The joy of helping others is really my driving force. The opportunity to shine God’s light through me is what I live for.
Project Indiana is a 501c3 organization formed by Indiana’s electric cooperatives with the vision of helping developing global communities advance by adopting villages, bring them electric power and support them as they form electric cooperatives that enable them to enjoy a better way of life. Electrification projects are completed in partnership with NRECA International. To learn more about the nonprofit, visit ProjectIndiana.org.