Rural Missouri - June 2018 - 4
| C O O P E R AT I O N
Left: Boone Electric Cooperative linemen Jeremy Wooden,
left, and Jason Toalson pose with one of the many kids who
became their constant companions while they worked to
bring electricity to the Liberian village of Totota. The two
spent three weeks in the west African nation. Below:
Jason works on a pole outside of a typical village dwelling.
Bottom: The village will receive power from this 200-panel
solar array. Previously power, if any, came from dry cell
batteries or privately owned generators. Lanterns and
candles were used for lighting.
photos courtesy of Boone Electric Cooperative
On the line in Liberia
Boone Electric linemen help build a new electric cooperative
wo linemen from Boone Electric Cooperative,
Columbia, found themselves thousands of
miles from home, doing work they do every
day, minus a few tools. Jason Toalson and
Jeremy Wooden volunteered to build power lines to
serve 400 people in the village of Totota in Liberia.
The effort was through NRECA International, a
program that began in 1962 to export the success
of the U.S. rural electriﬁcation program to developing countries. The two left St. Louis on Feb. 17 and
returned three weeks later.
For Jason, this was the second such project. He
also built lines in Haiti. Jeremy was the alternate
for a group that built power lines in Bolivia this past
winter. He learned of the African trip just days after
hearing he would not be going to Bolivia.
"I said, 'Yeah, I'll go, where is it?' " he says.
"From the time we knew about it to the time we
left was two weeks," adds Jason.
Getting there turned out to be one of the most difﬁcult parts of the effort, the two say. The trip to the
west African nation took three days. After a day of
rest they got to work setting the remaining poles, a
task that had to be done by hand. They were joined
by two linemen from Bolivia. Talking to the locals
was no problem, because they speak English. Communicating with their Spanish-speaking Bolivian
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RURAL MISSOURI | JUNE 2018
counterparts was much more difﬁcult, however.
With no trucks to dig holes and set poles, and
no bucket trucks to work from, the men took turns
climbing every pole. Holes were dug with rock bars
because the ground was so hard.
Loading the heavy reels of wire was another challenge. "The wire was like 700 pounds," Jason recalls.
"We just had to manhandle it up with a hand line to
get it in the back of a truck. We did that 18 times."
Liberia is located on the equator. Jason described
the climate as "a hot August day here" with temperatures in the upper 90s and constant humidity.
The two had to be careful not to drink any local
water nor eat the food. "If you didn't crack a seal on
it, you weren't drinking it," Jeremy says. Food was
chicken fried rice every night, and lunches packed
from groceries they picked up in town.
The linemen said they enjoyed the experience,
despite the hard work and time spent away from
family. "You have that sense of pride that you went
over there and did a good job," Jeremy says. "The
only thing that wasn't real cool is we didn't get to see
any lights come on."
That event would have to wait for completion of a
solar array with backup diesel generator that would
supply the current.
Adds Jason, "To me it was a once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity. It really made you appreciate what we
have here. I would like to go back in two years and
see if they are actually putting it to use."
Counting Jeremy and Jason, 10 linemen from
Boone Electric Cooperative now have taken part in
International Program projects, helping out in South
Sudan, Bolivia and Haiti.
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