More than 1.6 billion people in the world remain without electricity. That’s a pretty staggering statistic considering health, safety, education and economic growth all start with power. In modern times, no country has managed to substantially reduce poverty without access to electricity.

Electric co-ops know a thing or two about bringing electricity to people who don’t have it. After all, it was the co-ops who brought electricity to rural America over 75 years ago when no one else would.

In partnership with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) International Program, Michigan’s electric cooperatives sent 10 linemen to Buena Vista, Guatemala, in 2015. The linemen worked side-by-side with local residents to bring electricity to the remote, mountainous village. When work was completed, the community celebrated together as electric lights came on for the very first time. This moment marked the beginning of new opportunities and a new future for the 54 families that call Buena Vista home.

NRECA International Program Manager Ingrid Hunsicker recently visited Buena Vista to see how life has changed with electricity. Hunsicker reported that lights in the schoolyard and classrooms provide the children with a safe, bright place to learn. Processing corn is now easier and more efficient with electric corn mill grinders. Residents have access to better communication with radios and televisions, she noted. And, thanks to a new refrigerator, the local convenience store is able to offer cold drinks and meats.

This is just the beginning. The good people of Buena Vista now have the opportunity to grow and flourish in a way that was never before thought possible.

Up Next: Bolivia

In 2018, Michigan co-ops will send 15 linemen to bring electricity to remote parts of Bolivia. The North Beni Electrification Project will electrify six communities located on the road between Riberalta and Guayaranerin in northern Bolivia. Due to the length of this project, several groups of co-op volunteers from different states will be needed to complete the entire project construction. Michigan linemen will be working to electrify the first two communities of Santa Malia and El Hondo. The climate there is hot and humid as it’s one of the wettest regions in Bolivia. While planning is now underway, the construction trip will take place in the fall of 2018.

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