Home Local News Pee Dee Electric volunteers bring first-time electricity to rural Bolivian village

Pee Dee Electric volunteers bring first-time electricity to rural Bolivian village

Pee Dee Electric linemen Jody Keane and Steve Preslar recently helped bring electricity to a village in Bolivia.
Pee Dee Electric

WADESBORO — Two local Pee Dee Electric Linemen have completed a volunteer project to bring electricity to a rural Bolivian village for the first time. 

Jody Keane of Rockingham, and Steve Preslar of Norwood, both employees of Pee Dee Electric, served as part of the Brighter World Initiative team to build infrastructure to connect the village of Laphía to the electric grid. More than 120 people in the mountainous, agricultural community in central Bolivia now have access to improved education and economic opportunities, as well as power for their homes and the local school. 

“The locals were shy at first, but the expressions on their faces when the poles started to go up was the best part of the trip,” said Preslar. “They knew this was a step forward for their village and wanted to help in any way possible.”  

The Brighter World Initiative brought together 13 expert lineworkers from seven North Carolina electric co-ops to build about five miles of power lines. Most of the work, including pulling long spans of wire and lifting heavy transformers, was done by hand, as access to trucks and machinery was limited. Local villagers worked with the team to help navigate the most challenging terrain, including crossing a 2,000-foot ravine. 

At the completion of the 18-day project, community members, local leaders and volunteers gathered at the school for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebration. Cheers, applause and fireworks rang out when crew leader Eddie Stephens of Lenoir-based Blue Ridge Energy flipped the switch to illuminate lightbulbs throughout the school building for the first time. 


“When we flipped the power to the school and saw the excitement as the children ran around exploring,” said Keane. “We could tell they were excited for the future of their school and village.” 

Village leaders told cooperative representatives that having electricity will create new economic and educational opportunities and a stronger community, as young people will be able to stay in the village, rather than moving to the city. 

“Our cooperative was founded 79 years ago to bring much-needed electricity to our rural areas, and this project brings us back to our roots,” said Donnie Spivey of Pee Dee. “We are proud of Jody and Steve for traveling a long distance and working in challenging conditions to make a life-changing difference for others.” 

More than one billion people live without electric power around the world, according to the International Energy Agency, and only 66 percent of rural Bolivians had access to electricity as of 2016. 

The Brighter World Initiative was coordinated through NRECA International, a national cooperative philanthropic group that has brought electricity to more than 120 million people in 43 developing countries since 1962. 


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