With tears in their eyes and determination on their faces, 1,300 annual meeting attendees rose up in a standing ovation at the packed ballroom at the Hilton Riverside Hotel in New Orleans. Having just witnessed Troy Sams, a journeyman lineman from LaGrange Country REMC in Indiana, share his powerful and emotional story about his volunteer experience in Guatemala, the audience at the International luncheon felt a heightened sense of connection and understanding about the importance of Electrifying the World … One Village at a Time.
As part of a volunteer crew from Indiana, Troy traveled to the remote, mountainous region of northwestern Guatemala to help extend distribution lines to serve nearly 1,000 people for the very first time. In his presentation, Troy shared the highlights and firsthand experiences of his story. Troy’s talk focused on the partnership forged under harsh conditions to set poles and string line along precarious mountain cliffs – literally into the clouds in the thin air of the Guatemalan highlands. He talked of the skill and dedication of his volunteer partners – and the unflagging will and determination of the village craftsmen who worked tirelessly alongside the Hoosier linemen. With a combination of heartfelt admiration for his colleagues and generosity of spirit that is the hallmark of Foundation volunteers, Troy shared the motivation and the rewards that were derived from this small but important project implemented with 31 other volunteers from Indiana.
Earlier that same morning, Curtis Nolan, NRECA Board President, addressed the first General Session describing his experience in Guatemala where he visited the same project where Troy and his fellow Indiana linemen were working. He recounted sharing a late afternoon discussion with residents of nearby villages who were not able to participate in this phase of the Foundation pioneer electrification efforts. They had walked through the night and day to reach the project site and ask the seemingly simple, yet so important questions, “When will we get power? When is it our turn?”
President Nolan reminded the Membership that Foundation projects serve people in real need, people with the desire but lack of means to help themselves. He encouraged the Membership to extend their generosity to support these and future Foundation programs in the same spirit that powered early electrification programs in rural America; programs that aimed to satisfy a need that still exists in many countries today.