Three Garkane Power Association employees recently offered their skills and expertise to Bolivia and Brazil.
Phillip Burr, of Burrville, Sevier County, and Jeff Vaughn and Tom McLeod, both of Kanab, used their vacations to help train utility workers in rural and metropolitan areas.Garkane officials said electric cooperatives in Bolivia labor to bring electricity to thousands of citizens in rural areas.
The trio of Garkane workers became involved in a program sponsored partly by the National Rural Electric Association and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Two of them trained workers in rural villages in the area of the Bolivian capital, La Paz.
The training included job practices, procedures and safety for Bolivian linemen, who earn about $70 per month, including overtime. The importance of safety training is emphasized by the fact that nearly 25 percent of the country's utility work force has been lost through electrocutions, the Garkane volunteer employees reported.
Burr said the Bolivian electric workers were given their first "hot sticks," tools that have enabled electric utilities linemen in the United State to more safely perform their duties while working with energized power lines.
"The men I worked with had never seen a lineman climb a power pole using (U.S.) standard linemen-climbing gear," said Vaughn, who worked on more advanced safety practices and construction procedures in and near Santa Cruz in Brazil. "Their normal means of getting to the top of a pole is on a ladder."
McLeod commented, "It's amazing how quick friendships developed, even with the language barriers. For a time, the world seemed a much smaller place."