Electrifying a nation: Clint Mobley reflects on his journey to Guatemala
Sixty-five homes in a poor, rural Guatemalan village received light this past October, while Clint Mobley, one of OEC’s own linemen, gained a new perspective and appreciation for a world so unlike his own.
Mobley has worked as an OEC lineman for the past 12 years and has always heard about the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association's (NRECA) international projects. However, he had never considered going on a trip himself until this year, when he was encouraged to apply and submitted his application in early 2017.
“I knew I wanted to go when I realized what an incredible opportunity it would be for a blue collar working guy like me to take my skills and help change the lives of these people in a poverty-stricken community,” Mobley said. “This project provided me with the chance to do something out of my comfort-zone while simultaneously serving a people group I could never reach on my own.”
About a month later, Mobley was called in for an interview at NRECA, which was a bit intimidating, as he was the only candidate for the trip in the room and was questioned by about 20 interviewers.
He left the interview feeling very excited about the potential to travel to Guatemala, but also nervous because he knew it was a highly competitive opportunity. “I tried not to get my hopes up, but that was hard to do because as I exited the interview, I realized how badly I wanted to go,” Mobley said.
Finally, after several months of waiting, Mobley was asked in June 2017 to join the team of 13 men from various Oklahoma electric co-ops- — 11 linemen and two electricians — who would be traveling to Chiis, Guatemala, in October 2017.
“We flew into Guatemala City, a very urban and commercialized area,” Mobley explained. “There was a Hard Rock Café right across from our hotel. But by the time we drove nine hours out of the city to the small village of Chiis, it was like a whole different world.”
When asked what was the most memorable part of his 18-day adventure in South America, Mobley didn’t skip a beat before saying it was the village children he and his team met.
“The kids were by far the best part of the trip. I’ve never met harder workers. I mean those kids were at our sides helping us work from daylight to dark. When I say helping us work, I mean it. They would drag our tool bags and carry our ladders down the stretch of line we were installing. And these were 7- and 8-year-old kids who didn’t even speak our language, but after a few days, it didn’t matter.”
Mobley explained that the small poverty-stricken village of Chiis has previously been receiving its limited supply of electricity from a few solar panels.
Three light bulbs and two outlets were installed in 65 homes — about half as many a single room in an American home has but, as Mobley said, it was a great improvement.
Here in the United States, we are busy rushing from one activity or meeting to the next, but in Chiis they are worried about their next meal and completing their household chores. “Even the smallest of kids have duties — everyone does their fair share,” Mobley said. "They were some of the hardest workers I have ever met and were at our side the entire time."
The team of 13 men installed three miles of line in Chiis, which included framing the poles and hand-digging 8-foot-long bust anchors into the rocks on the side of the mountain — this was no flat Oklahoma terrain!
“I really think I did more physical labor in those first few days there than I have ever done in all my years here, even including ice storms,” Mobley chuckled. "It was hard work.”
“Looking back, the bond I formed with all the other guys — my fellow Oklahomans and the Guatemalan men — is so special. We still talk every day. When you are taken out of your comfort zone in the way we were, you bond in a unique way that only comes from being in circumstances like these together,” Mobley said.
He added, “This trip is the most rewarding thing I have ever been a part of. It truly took me back to the roots that all cooperatives are connected to.... providing electric service where others wouldn’t and partnering with communities to serve them in the best way we can.”