Sharing the light


duane highleyI have mixed memories surrounding the annual hanging of holiday lights at our house. I enjoyed the beauty of the lights once hung, but it was sometimes frustrating getting them all to work. Thanks to LED lights, the annual chore of running through an entire string of lights to find the burned-out bulb is largely a thing of years past. Imagine the collective productivity gains that will be experienced nationwide as families forgo their hot, old incandescent light strings for cool, bright LEDs — not to mention the energy savings.

The hanging of lights is just one holiday tradition that many of us in Arkansas enjoy. But for over one billion people around the world, electric light is still a far-off dream.

Each year for the last three years, teams of electric linemen from across the state of Arkansas have given their time and energy to help electrify families in Central America. The drudgery of tasks that fell inordinately on the young girls— carrying water from the nearby creek and carrying firewood for cooking — has been eliminated. Now, thousands of people who had no access to electricity can have electric light, appliances, tools and access to education and entertainment that was formerly unavailable. I’ve seen the work that our linemen have done, and it truly changes lives. Imagine the gratitude of a grandmother who, with tears streaming down her face, gathers her grandchildren around her to watch as she turns on an electric lamp for the first time.

You may not be able to travel to Central America, climb power poles and string high-voltage wire, but you CAN partner with us to electrify the world, one village at a time.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) hosts an international electrification program to help bring safe, affordable electricity to those who are still waiting. To date. over 110 million people in 42 countries have benefited from the association’s work. This year, as you are planning your holiday giving, please consider a gift to the NRECA International Foundation.

The foundation is supported solely through voluntary donations, and, thanks to these funds, more than 300 member-owned electric cooperatives have been able to support electrification work in Asia, Africa and Latin America. I don’t think that holiday lights are the first thing your newly electrified international friends will use their power to energize, but maybe, a generation or two in the future, they can enjoy a new family tradition in lighting theirown holiday tree.

To support the NRECA International Foundation, search online for “NRECA International Foundation Get Involved” or visit to make a donation online.

You may also make checks payable to “NRECA International Foundation” and mail them to: NRECA International Foundation, P.O. Box 75472, Baltimore, MD 21275-5472.