How Two NEC Co-Op Linemen Helped Bring Power to Matasanos - The Bend Magazine

How Two NEC Co-Op Linemen Helped Bring Power to Matasanos

NEC Co-op linemen help bring electricity for the first time to a small village in Guatemala

Linemen from NEC Co-Op, along with other South Texas cooperatives, on a mission.

Photo provided by NEC Co-Op

Before November 2023, the remote village of Matasanos in Guatemala functioned entirely without electricity. Now, with a completed mission from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association International and linemen from various South Texas cooperatives, including Nueces Electric Cooperative (NEC Co-op), the community — consisting of over 240 villagers, 47 families, two churches, a school and a health clinic — has access to power for the first time. 

Founded in 1962, the NRECA’s International program has served over 160 million people worldwide through its mission to provide access to safe, reliable and affordable electricity. NRECA’s team identifies the needs of a community, mobilizes resources and volunteer groups and then sends them out to execute the mission. 

NEC Co-op CEO Varzavand “Avan” Irani shared that though electrical installations had been made in nearby communities, the village of Matasanos had fallen behind. So once the village was chosen and the project plans were made, 20 linemen from 10 different electric cooperatives from South Texas began the mission — including two NEC Co-op employees from Corpus Christi: John Guzman and Joe Rivera. 

Rivera refers to the experience as one he’ll never forget. He hopes that both access to electricity and the conversations between the linemen and the villagers will have generational effects. 

“One cold morning, I drove up to the gate, turned my heater on and invited the kids to jump in,” Rivera recalled. “I had a chance to talk with them, sharing insights ​about opportunities available to them. I encouraged them to explore the lineworker field, emphasizing the potential for both financial gain and personal growth. I could see it in their faces; they were listening.” 

Three kilometers of primary, high-voltage and four kilometers of secondary, low-voltage wiring were needed to bring power to the village. However, unseasonal rains, challenging terrain and a political-related strike throughout the country provided challenges. 

“Frankly, upon learning of these challenges, we did not anticipate our team completing the project within the allotted timeframe,” Irani said. “However, their sheer grit and determination prevailed, and they managed to finish the project almost ahead of schedule.” 

Though it’s too early to measure the exact impact of Matasanos having electricity, Irani said they’ve witnessed significant success stories in similar communities within Guatemala. “These successes range from reduced time spent by children on daily chores, such as milling flour, to communities enhancing the preparation of coffee beans [a large industry for the area] to meet global standards, attracting buyers like Starbucks,” he said. 

Aside from the remarkable and indescribable feeling of witnessing light bulbs illuminating Matasanos for the first time, the relationships between a group of 20 strangers, and the bonds formed between these men and the local villagers, were unlike anything Irani had ever experienced. 

To the credit of NRECA’s International program and the South Texas Cooperatives involved, this experience served as an invaluable reminder of NEC Co-op’s mission rooted in accessibility. Irani shared, “It brought us back to our roots and revitalized our purpose — to provide electricity to rural areas.” 

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