Life Since the Lights Came On
An Update from BoliviaBy Laphía community leader Ciriaco Rodriguez
Last spring, 13 volunteer linemen from North Carolina’s electric cooperatives packed up and traveled to Laphía, Bolivia. Their task? Bring electricity to the remote mountain village through the Brighter World Initiative. Over two weeks, they worked with locals to set poles, string lines and wire the local school for lights, changing lives in the agricultural village forever (Building a Brighter World).
We asked Fernando Ghetti, an NRECA International engineer based in Bolivia, to sit down with 34-year-old bricklayer and Laphía community leader Ciriaco Rodriguez to reflect on how life has changed since the lights came on.
Q: How did it feel when your village got power?
A: When we were beginning to plant the poles, my companions became cheerful and worked day and night … with much joy and goodwill. I have also felt very happy, along with other colleagues who had never thought they were going to have electricity.
[As of] October, 100% of the houses have been connected. The entire population is now happier after fulfilling their dream, seeing light inside their homes.
Q: Have appliances been added to homes? Which is a favorite and why?
A: Little by little, the inhabitants of Laphía are buying [appliances like] refrigerators, blenders and arc welding machines.
For me, the refrigerator [is a favorite] to store things for the children. Also, a cell phone charger now helps to have communication at any time.
Q: Does the village have plans to add new services that would not have been possible without electricity?
A: Now that there is energy, we are thinking of having bathrooms and showers. We can also operate automatic irrigation systems with a timer.
Since there is electricity, the school teacher sometimes repeats lessons [at the school] at night for some students who [need extra work] in a subject. The teacher makes an effort to teach one hour at night. For us this has been very good.
Q: What do the children think?
A: They are really happy, now that they have light. They turn on their TV, they turn on their radio. Before, they only grazed their sheep and did their homework. Now they think about using computers. They think about making tools — the teacher told them that they have to learn to weld and learn how to manage energy. It is a joy for them.
Q: Has anyone moved to the community because of access to electricity?
A: Yes, several who went down to [the town of] Tiquipaya to provide better education for their children are now returning and enrolling their children in school, because that way they no longer have to spend on rentals, transportation and recreation for their children. At the moment, three families have plans to return to the community.
Ten new houses have been built. I believe that the value of the land has increased by at least 50 percent.
Q: Volunteer Tommy Brock of Surry-Yadkin EMC asks: ‘Is my dog, Cosmo, okay?’
A: Yes, he keeps taking care of the school as a guard. Now that there are no classes, the puppy is at home — on vacation.
Q: Do you have any message for the teams that came and built the lines?
A: Thank you very much to the volunteers who helped us, may the Lord bless you.
They have worked hard for us, excellently, and have demonstrated their ability. Seeing this, we want to work as well as they have worked. From my community, always, thank you.
We will always remember them. They have left an example for us with their work.
Making a brighter world