KJ Johnson – Journeyman Lineman, San Miguel Power Association
Kelly Snow – Journeyman Lineman, United Power
In the summer of 2019 a group of Lineman from the United States traveled to the town Sillab, Guatemala to help bring electricity to this village.
IBEW Local 111 asked KJ the following questions about his experience with this venture:
Local 111: How were you made aware of this event?
KJ: This is a NRECA sponsored event which is presented to Electric Cooperatives in the United States. San Miguel Power Association and United Power were willing to be involved and send KJ and Kelly to participate to build power lines and ultimately provide electricity to the village of Sillab. This event was also backed by the Colorado Rural Electric Association and Oklahoma Statewide Electric Association.
Local 111: What type of construction and what terrain challenges were you faced with?
KJ: It was all overhead construction. Guatemala is a lush and heavily wooded area. This was all walking/climbing work. The only tools we had were the hand tools brought by the Lineman helping with this project. We were faced with canyon crossings of 1000 to 1200 feet. There was no access for bucket trucks or digger derrick trucks. Good old-fashioned manual labor building these power lines.
Local 111: Did the local people/villagers help?
KJ: Yes, the villagers helped and were very vested in this project! They performed a tremendous amount of manual labor to assist us digging hand holes for the poles. They also helped in walking ropes across the rugged terrain! Children were more than willing to help as well!
Local 111: Tell us about the language barrier.
KJ: “chuckled” We had translators which needless to say, helped tremendously! The locals in this area speak a Mayan dialect. This is different than the Spanish language. The villagers were eager to help and we learned quickly to use the word “alto” which means stop.
Local 111: What was the weather like?
KJ: Hot! I have never seen rain like this before in my life! Literally it came down in buckets!
Local 111: How about lodging and meals?
KJ: NRECA went to great lengths to provide lodging. We were housed in a trade school type of facility. One of the trades taught at this school is culinary. So, lodging and food worked out well for us. A huge thank you to NRECA for providing these conveniences!
Local 111: When the project was completed what was provide to the villagers homes?
KJ: We provided power to forty-three homes. Each home was wired with single phase power and received two outlets and two light bulbs.
Local 111: Speak to the feelings of the villagers when the project was complete.
KJ: The villagers were overcome with satisfaction, thankfulness when the lines were energized! I have never in my life been treated with this much gratitude and appreciation for the we had completed! It truly made us think about and appreciate the comfort and conveniences we enjoy here at home!
Local 111 would like to thank KJ for taking time and affording us this interview! You can watch a video of the work being done on this project at: https://youtu.be/52xFw68F34A