With tree trunks sometimes serving as utility poles, the small South American country of Suriname is largely in need of critical energy infrastructure upgrades. Fortunately, rigorous efforts by electricians in the nation of 540,000 are continuing to get a boost from the IBEW.
For more than a year, linemen with several locals on the West Coast have volunteered time and training with the Suriname American Brotherhood Initiative, spearheaded by Seattle Local 77 member Brady Hansen. Now, members of Vacaville, Calif., Local 1245 are stepping up their commitment, donating materials via Recycling for Linemen, a nonprofit that provides pre-owned but still perfectly functional safety gear to the growing number of electricians in the developing world.
Hansen spoke at a safety summit for utility provider NV Energy in early 2015, inspiring management and IBEW employees to participate.
“Both NV Energy and Local 1245 provide the necessary equipment, training and opportunities to do our job to the best of our abilities,” Local 1245 business representative Pat Waite told Reno, Nev., KRNV Channel 4. “Sharing supplies and knowledge with the Surinamese linemen is the right thing to do. I’m really proud we have partnered with this program.”
Members and management donated harnesses, tool belts, rubber boots, climbing gaffs, flashlights, first aid kits and traffic signs and cones. “At NV Energy, safety is such an important part of our culture,” said Pat Wynen, the company’s lines and construction maintenance supervisor. “When we learned about the dangerous and unsafe conditions of linemen in developing countries, we were immediately moved to become a part of this program. The materials we are sending to Suriname may very well save someone’s life.”
IBEW.org reported on a 2014 service trip that brought Hansen and members from Local 77 and Portland, Ore., Local 125 to the country to instruct local electricians in pole top rescues, conductor tying and more.
“It was almost like we went back in time over 80 years to when apprenticeships were just being established,” said Local 125 lineman Kurt Shriver. “The trip was one of the high points of my career. It was awesome to know that we were sharing skills of the trade and helping linemen stay safe at work to return home and be husbands and fathers.”
To donate, volunteer or learn more, visit the Suriname American Brotherhood Initiative on Facebook.