"Poverty is the worst form of violence," said Tipmont REMC's Ron Holcomb of his trips to bring electricity to villages in Guatemala.

Holcomb, CEO of the Linden, Indiana, co-op, was the keynote speaker at the Feb. 27 NRECA International Luncheon in Nashville. He shared stories and photos from a recent Project Indiana mission, the third trip to Guatemala for a group of the state's co-ops.

Last year, sixteen linemen from Indiana co-ops worked with NRECA International to electrify the village of El Zapotillo near Guatemala's southwestern border with Mexico. Holcomb described the changes in the region over the years.

"In 2018, if you want to see transformation firsthand, I'd go to Guatemala," Holcomb told a crowd of about 1,500. "Everywhere you look, work is shifting away from manual labor. Access to electric energy is the foundation that makes further advancements possible."

The annual luncheon celebrates NRECA International's work over the last five decades and is a fundraiser for the program's charitable arm.

"Today's theme is about how electrification programs impact lives," said Dan Waddle, NRECA International senior vice president. "We see how these programs give people hope and their hope gives rise to aspirations. This knowledge that we have played a part in helping mothers and fathers envision a better future for their children impacts us. It's powerful."

CoBank CEO Tom Halverson presented a check for $250,000 to Waddle and NRECA CEO Jim Matheson at the event, signaling its continued support to NRECA International.

"For NRECA international, 'concern for community' means bringing the miracle of electricity to 43 developing nations and permanently improving the quality of life for more than 140 million people over the years," Halverson said. "That's why CoBank remains committed to the mission of NRECA International."

"We are cooperatives sharing what we have. It's a recognition that the collective is stronger than the individual," said Holcomb. "It's relationships, a shared experience and our work is intensely human, and that's the greatest strength we have."