Linemen from across the state returned home safe Monday after things got a little dicey on a humanitarian trip to Guatemala. An incident between the drug cartel and the Guatemalan government led to Martial Law being declared in the area they were working.
The group of 10 volunteer linemen from across the state of Oklahoma were in Guatemala to provide electricity to a remote village.
The villagers in the isolated, mountainous village of Sillab have never had electricity. But for the past two and a half weeks, linemen from Oklahoma and Colorado have been working to change that.
“It’s an honor in all honesty,” said Nate Hulse, a volunteer, and lineman with the Oklahoma Electric Cooperative out of Norman.
All the volunteers work for rural electric co-ops from across the state, bringing electricity to villagers in much the same way those co-ops brought electricity to rural Oklahoma decades ago.
Nate left his wife and nine-month-old baby at home for what was expected to be a three-week mission.
“They talk about the poverty there, but these people don’t have poverty. They have joy. They have everything they needed,” said Nate.
The mission, however, was cut short after the Guatemala government declared a state of siege in an area that included Sillab.
Officials said the linemen were never in danger in the village. But the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives was working with the consulate, and a police escort was arranged to get the men to the airport.
Fortunately, the unrest only lasted 24 hours. And the linemen were able to complete their mission and celebrate with an emotional lighting ceremony.
“We gave them electricity, but they gave us a different outlook on life,” said Nate.
This is the fourth trip Oklahoma's electric cooperatives have sponsored. They have another planned next year for Bolivia.