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Jackson linemen volunteer to help with rural electrification in Haiti

Jackson Journeymen Linemen Jake Soderholm (left) and Matt "George" Madden will travel to Haiti next month to bring electricity for the first time to the community of Caracol.

JACKSON -- Two linemen from Federated Rural Electric will travel to Caracol, Haiti, as volunteers with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association's (NRECA) International Foundation Dec. 4-15.

Jackson Journeymen Linemen Matt "George" Madden and Jake Soderholm will assist in building up Haiti's transmission and distribution system.

"It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help out a country in need of aid," Soderholm said.

"This Haiti project is an interesting chance to travel to a new place and experience its culture in a non-tourist kind of way. We're helping people improve their situation through the electrification," Madden added.

The NRECA International Foundation is a 501c3 charity whose mission is to electrify the world one village at a time through voluntary donations of time, money and materials. Each year, the Foundation sends 60 to 70 volunteers overseas to help construct new distribution lines and train local linemen and other utility staff and managers.

Volunteers typically travel overseas for a period of two to three weeks and have the opportunity to work alongside local employees and experience the area culture.

In Caracol, Haiti, the NRECA International team has begun work on a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded program to bring electricity to the village of Caracol and surrounding communities.

USAID is also sponsoring construction of a nearby industrial park that will bring much-needed development and employment opportunities to the region on Haiti's northeast coast.

Volunteers on the project are helping build distribution lines and train the project's four novice linemen. The project's goal is to bring electricity access to more than 1,000 households and businesses around Caracol by April 2013.

"Our cooperative has donated equipment and made donations for many years," said Richard Burud, Federated's general manager. "We now extend that in the form of employees lending a helping hand and volunteering knowledge and time to help the efforts in Haiti. We applaud George and Jake for their international volunteerism."

Federated is a Touchstone Energy Cooperative serving more than 5,000 members in Jackson and Martin counties.