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CoServ Joins Effort to Electrify Bolivia

Linemen from 6 Texas co-ops connect power to 3 villages

Battling high humidity, hot temperatures and bouts of rain, a team of Texas linemen brought their tools, skills and experience to Bolivia and left behind newly powered communities.

In November, 17 linemen from six electric cooperatives including CoServ, built infrastructure and connected electricity to three Bolivian villages – Batraja, Jerico and San Antonio de Maty. 

CoServ Operations Manager Bret Turnbow and crew supervisors Chris Hammonds and Ben DeRemer traveled 3,673 miles to help build five miles of electric line. The collective effort brought power to 125 families, schools and a clinic on the evening of Friday, Nov. 17.

To thank the linemen, children performed dances and skits on the final day of their trip. 

“It’s something I’ll never forget,” Bret said of the villagers’ joy when the lights came on. “There was so much hooting and hollering. It was a wonderful experience.”

The 15-day trip began Nov. 5 allowing the CoServ trio to return just in time to spend Thanksgiving with their families. 

Linemen from six Texas electric cooperatives took part in the project: CoServ, Bartlett, Bluebonnet and Pedernales as well as Mid-South Synergy and United Cooperative Services.

Crews installed an electric line to serve the three communities, which were about two miles apart. The linemen dug holes by hand to install heavy wooden poles of differing lengths and built metering loops to homes that housed few possessions.

Mingled among trip necessities were surprises – soccer balls and candy – to hand out to children who flocked the linemen wherever they went. A resident who wore a shirt sewn from tattered strips helped with the project. Crews thanked him with work shirts and gave their clothing to other villagers in need.

The work, though hard, was worthwhile, Bret said, encouraging other linemen to volunteer for NRECA International projects.

“It’ll change your outlook on life and how fortunate we are to be here in the U.S.”   

NRECA International began in 1962 when the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the U.S. Agency for International Development signed an agreement in the Oval Office to share lessons in rural electrification with developing countries. In the years since, about 120 million people in 43 countries have benefited.