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‘I Became a Lineman to Help People’

REC Crew Helps Bring Power to Village in Guatemala

John Medved connects with children from the local village.

They’ve traversed the marshy tidewaters and the rocky heights of the Blue Ridge Mountains here in Virginia. They’ve restored power in the blazing heat under a blanket of humidity and in the freezing cold with heavy snow and ice.

In October, they took on a new challenge: bringing power to a rural village in Guatemala.

Drew Leake works to string primary and secondary line.

Addison Spicer and Drew Leake are seasoned REC linemen. Combined, they have almost two decades of work experience. But they excitedly volunteered to go on a journey in a different country where they didn’t speak the language and where the work processes were different.

John Medved, Director—Safety and Security Officer— also made the trip to support the crew’s safety while they worked. A former lineman himself, Medved has been on similar trips to Haiti in 2015 and Bolivia in 2019.

In Guatemala, 55% of the population lives below the poverty line, and it’s estimated that 81% of the country’s population has access to electricity. While people are primarily concentrated in urban areas, there is significant agricultural production in rural areas.

While there, Spicer and Leake, along with lineworkers from other co-ops with the Virginia, Maryland and Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives, constructed a distribution system to help bring electricity to a village for the very first time.

Explaining why he volunteered to go, Leake said, “I became a lineman to help people. When the lights go out, somebody has to get them back on. The only thing more rewarding than that would be to help bring power to people who’ve never had it before.”

Addison Spicer takes a break with members of the local crew.

As if being in a new country, with a different language and terrain, wasn’t enough of a challenge, the crews faced numerous hurdles.

On more than one occasion, work trucks got stuck in the mud at the job site. Outside of those challenges, there was continued social unrest that led to roadblocks, fuel shortages and unpleasant run-ins with armed guards.

Still, the crews persevered. They strung power lines, installed transformers and wired houses. Originally, they were aiming to wire 82 houses, but it quickly swelled to 100 houses, demanding extra time and effort.

“I’m honored to have been a part of this, something bigger and out of my comfort zone,” Spicer said. “We do this every day, and while we love to serve our members at home, this project provided a whole different perspective on what we do.”

Reflecting on the trip and all that the crew faced, Medved said, “Our journey was far from ordinary, marked by perseverance, adaptability and the determination to bring light to the lives of those we had come to serve.”