Tipmont lineman Jason Gates shares his Guatemala experienceRob Ford | Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Tipmont REMC lineman Jason was part of the Project Indiana crew that traveled to Guatemala in March to electrify a remote Guatemalan village. Jason is the fourth Tipmont lineman that has volunteered with project Indiana. I sat down recently with Jason and asked him about his experience.
Did the elevation difference affect you?
At 10,000 feet, it was hard to move gear around because of the thin air. You keep breathing harder and harder and pretty soon it feels like your chest is going to explode. We couldn’t just power through it.
The Guatemalan men, on the other hand, are used to it. Four of them took a 400-pound transformer and carried it from the bottom of the mountain to the top of the mountain without stopping. And, these aren't groomed walking paths either. It was impressive.
Describe the homes you brought electricity to.
The older homes were wood with a tin roof and a dirt floor. A few of the newer homes were built on a slab with tile floor with concrete walls and a sheet metal roof. None of the homes had ceilings.
What was it like when you turned the lights on for the first time?
Every time we turned a house on, the villagers would shoot off two big bottle rockets in celebration. They were always shaking your hand and thanking you.
Did you interact much with the villagers?
Yes, quite a bit. They were very appreciative and accommodating and bent over backwards for us. The men assisted us with any physical work that they could do. The women would divide up the other chores like using firewood to keep water warm so we could bathe in the evening. They also washed our clothes. They really treated us like royalty.
What about the children?
(Laughs) We took candy and always kept some in our pockets to give to the children. They figured it out pretty quickly. There was always a small group of kids following us around looking for candy.
How did you do with the language barrier?
The language barrier was tough at first. We would pick up up a word or two and use hand gestures to communicate. By the end of the week, we had learned enough from each other to share short stories. Our last night there, we were able to tell stories around a camp fire. They were so friendly and fun to talk with.
How did this trip affect you?
God gave me a skill set and I've been fortunate enough provide a living for my family. I'm very appreciative of that. I was so grateful to be able to go and help somebody else have a better quality of life.
Jason Gates grew up near Linden, IN and graduated from North Montgomery High School. He has worked at Tipmont for 14 years.
- Last modified: Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Rob Ford is Communication Director for Tipmont REMC.