A Bright Future
Oklahoma Living Editor Anna Politano shares her experience with Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives' first international electrification project.
On August 14, 2016, my daughter turned 6. It was the first year I was not with her on her birthday. I left a couple days before her special day and headed to the South American country of Bolivia.
I joined a group of Oklahoma co-op linemen who had been working for nearly two weeks in remote villages in the Amazonian area of Bolivia. These volunteers worked in challenging conditions to build powerlines that would enable villagers to enjoy the gift of electricity for the first time. The “Inauguration Day,” when the lights were slated to come on, also happened to be on Sunday, August 14—my little girl’s birthday. Although her mom was far away, she had a joyful day surrounded by family. For me, the day had a double dose of brightness. My heart was heavy for being away from her, but I was grateful to witness the sparkle in the eyes of those Bolivian villagers receiving power for the first time.
That Sunday evening, a stage had been erected in one of the villages and a wire with lightbulbs was strung from one pole to another pole. On the ground, plastic chairs had been set up in rows. Local villagers came out to the ceremony in their best attire; several of them were holding signs expressing gratitude for the local electric cooperative and for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national organization that coordinated the project. There was loud music, laughter and an atmosphere of celebration. The ceremony began at 6:30 p.m. and included several remarks from local officials as well as representatives from Oklahoma and Missouri’s electric cooperatives. Soon, it was dark. It was also hot. I was walking around with a camera on my neck attempting to capture the moment. While walking, trying not to stumble, I saw a home sitting in darkness, but with one flicker of light. I approached the home’s window, curious to see what little light was there. I peeked through the non-glass window opening to see a little boy doing homework by candlelight. Only a few moments before the lights would be turned on, I saw a glimpse of how night life was in those villages: dark. I couldn’t help but realize how grand this mission was. That little boy’s life will never be the same. His future is already brighter; he will enjoy better opportunities than his parents and grandparents because of this access to electricity.
The same sparkle I saw in his eyes, I see in my daughter’s eyes. The promise of a new day. A promise of a prosperous future. A promise of light. August 14, 2016, was a special day—it marked the beginning of a new path for 361 families who received light for the first time. Let their future shine!