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For Immediate release
Contact: Jim McCarty, 573-680-2451 or

Electric co-ops to light up Bolivia

Volunteers from electric cooperatives in Missouri and Oklahoma plan to light up Bolivia this summer through a joint project called Energy Trails. The effort is an electrification project made possible through a partnership between the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives (AMEC) and the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC) through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s International Program.

The project will take place Aug. 1-17 in northern Bolivia and will bring electricity to two villages, El Torito and Dos de Junio. A local electric cooperative, Cooperativa Electrica Riberalta, will assist the volunteer linemen from Missouri and Oklahoma on this project. Twelve volunteer linemen — six from Missouri and six from Oklahoma — will build power lines to serve Bolivians who currently live without electricity and wire houses.

Worldwide, more than 1.6 billion people live without electricity. The International Program seeks to brighten the lives of people in these developing nations by building powerlines and donating equipment and materials that are no longer needed by U.S. electric cooperatives.

Recently the Energy Trails team from Missouri was selected from among 18 volunteers at 12 electric cooperative systems.

Lineworkers for the project are:

Brandon Steffen, West Central Electric Cooperative, Higginsville
Steven Smith, Northeast Missouri Electric Power Cooperative, Palmyra
Robert Hawkins, Boone Electric Cooperative, Columbia
Tom Golder, Osage Valley Electric Cooperative, Butler
John Winther, Laclede Electric Cooperative, Lebanon
Jared Kelley, SEMO Electric Cooperative, Sikeston

The team electrician is Steven Joannes from Central Electric Power Cooperative, Jefferson City. Two alternates have been selected to step in if someone is unable to go unexpectedly. They are Danny Derry, Grundy Electric Cooperative, Trenton, and Jonathan Schussler, Osage Valley Electric Cooperative, Butler.

In addition, team leader Craig Moeller, AMEC assistant director of risk management and training, and Rural Missouri magazine Editor Jim McCarty will take part in the effort.

Electric cooperatives in Missouri have sent volunteers to other countries in the past. However, this is the first time the state has made a coordinated group effort to bring electricity to unserved areas. Those who have volunteered in the past call it a “life-changing experience.”

On a preliminary trip this winter, the Americans were told by one local villager that living without electricity is like being blind. Past experience with these projects shows that electricity lets children attend school on a regular basis. It raises the standard of living for the entire family by lightening the burden for adults and providing running water, refrigeration and sanitation previously unavailable.

It also saves money for families that relied on generators for just a few hours of power.

The original purpose of the International Program when it started in 1962 was to share lessons learned by U.S. electric cooperatives with cooperatives in developing nations. Over more than 50 years, the program has brought a better life to 110 million people.

You can learn more about the NRECA International Program here.

If you're interested in making a donation to your Missouri Energy Trails Team, please check out our newly created GoFundMe page

Lilian Landivar poses with her family outside their home in the small community, El Torito on the outskirts of Riberalta, Bolivia. Residents live without electricity, but will soon be connected thanks to the electric cooperative volunteers from Missouri and Oklahoma.










Craig Moeller, left, the Missouri team leader, gives a battery-powered light to one of the Bolivians he hopes to help when the group returns in August during a preliminary trip the Bolivia. Craig is the assistant director of Risk Management and Training for the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.







A delegation of American electric cooperative employees who took part in a preliminary trip to Bolivia poses with the nation’s flag. They will return in August to build power lines for Bolivians who do not have electricity.

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