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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
Rob Ford is Tipmont and Wintek's communication director, a role he's held since 2015.
Rob has a bachelor's and a master's in Communication from Purdue University. He lives in West Lafayette with his wife and three children and has a life-sized Yoda statue in his office. Away from the office, you’ll find Rob working on his golf swing, jump shot, or hope for a Purdue basketball national title – all futile endeavors.