Haiti helped by mid-Missouri linemen

Lineman Cory Kleffner atop a pole with a view of the Village of Caracol in the background.

Two Three Rivers Electric linemen spent 19 days in January and early Febrauary in Caracol, Haiti, as part of the Caracol Community Electrification Program.

Westphalia natives Cory Kleffner and Logan Gentges worked without the modern tools, which are designed to make work easier and safer, available to linemen.

â??Everything was labor intensive,â?? Kleffner said.

Although there was a digging truck, Kleffner said it was mainly used for transportation and setting holes because the digging apparatus often did not work.

Instead, local residents dug the holes, which had to be six feet deep and three feet in diameter. by hand. They were paid only $10 (U.S.) per hole. The residents then had to empty water from the holes by bucket brigade.

Kleffner and Gentges helped set 64 poles and nine anchors, all set by hand. They also connected 38 services and strung the secondary wire in the Village of Caracol.

â??Whenever we hooked up the homes, we had to disconnect the power in the entire village so everyone would be out of power for hours at a time,â?? Kleffner said. â??They always did this on Saturday mornings. They didnâ??t mind at all.â??

The USAID project is building electric lines into the rural area and trying to set it up to be a cooperative.

â??What Logan and I did was a drop in the sea to what needs to be done,â?? Kleffner said.

The right-of-way crew for the Caracol project consisted of a couple of groundmen with machetes chopping limbs off of trees. Cactus, locust and mango trees were cut. The cacti were used as fence to keep livestock in.

â??The people in the villages treated us very well and many were glad to see us,â?? Kleffner said. â??The linemen and the groundmen really like their job and they were always smiling.â??

There was electricity in the larger cities, but unlike mid-Missouri, that electricity was available only a few hours a day. The men were told that many of the city's meters were bypassed; therefore, payments to the utility company were not made.

Before leaving, Kleffner and Gentges donated their boots, clothing, gloves, hats and other essentials to the linemen and groundmen from Caracol.

â??They were very appreciative of the hand-me-down items,â?? Gentges said.

Three Rivers Electric also donated safety glasses, hats, electrical tape and sweat bands.

â??It was something different for us - it got us out of our comfort zone,â?? Kleffner said.

When asked if they would do something like this again, Kleffner said he would like to go to another part of the world.

â??We will know what to expect if we do this again,â?? Gentges said.

When they returned, the two men were glad to take hot showers and brush their teeth with tap water. They both said they were glad to see the Westphalia city limit signs, adding that life is good in mid-Missouri.

A lineman from a Minnesota cooperative also worked in Caracol. The Caracol Community Electrification Program was implemented by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), with support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the NRECA International Foundation.