Pamela White, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti, met with two North Dakotans recently, thanking them for the work they are doing installing power to the island nation.
White recognized power linemen Jody Bruce, Minot, and Josh Hoffman, Carrington, along with several volunteers for their work installing power to rural residences in Haiti as part of a rural electrification project through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association International Foundation.
Bruce works for Verendrye Electric Cooperative, while Hoffman works for Northern Plains Electric Cooperative. He previously worked for Dakota Valley Electric out of Wahpeton.
Two volunteers from North Dakota assisted in installing power in Haiti recently.
Bruce, Hoffman and the other volunteers are installing power to residences which neighbor an industrial park. When fully functional, the industrial park will have the capacity to employ 30,000 people.
"The ambassador was impressed with our work," Hoffman said. "She was also impressed that we were willing to leave our families to participate in the project. It was nice of her to say those things, but the work we do here is so rewarding that it's worth it."
"I volunteered to truly help people in need," he said. "Going to the orphanage had the biggest impact on me and was one of the more memorable parts of the trip. It's a true honor to be a part of this."
As part of their stay, the volunteers visited 32 children who lived in an orphanage. The orphanage is scheduled to receive electricity in about a month.
Haiti is often listed as one of the poorest countries in the world, according to NRECA International. The unemployment rate is more than 40 percent and 80 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Only about 13 percent of the people there have regular access to electricity.
"The conditions the linemen are working in are pretty primitive - electricity only in the evenings, no bathrooms or running water," said Jay Jacobson, general manager of Northern Plains and Dakota Valley Electric Cooperatives. "These guys and their families are making a big sacrifice, but what a difference it will make to the people of Haiti."
During the two-week mission, Bruce and Hoffman are installing the poles and wire to bring power into the people's homes. To date, more than 1,500 consumers have been connected to the electrical system. That means some homes now have TV antennas. And other residents have opened their own small businesses like Internet cafes and water treatment plants, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.
"Electricity is a critical element in improving the quality of life," said Bruce Carlson, general manager of Verendrye Electric. "It's crucial to providing healthcare, education, clean water and other vital services."
Bruce and Hoffman are two of the only linemen in the state to ever partake in such a project. This is the second trip for Hoffman, who traveled to Haiti in 2012 for a similar project.
"We're really proud to see this boots-on-the-ground leadership out of North Dakota. Seeing the photos and hearing of how grateful the people are is just heartwarming," said Dennis Hill, general manager of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives.