Seventeen months after IBEW Local 1245 first joined up with the Suriname American Brotherhood Initiative (SABI) to provide skills and safety training to linemen in the small South American country of Suriname, a second group of Local 1245 members once again travelled down to Suriname with another SABI delegation in March of 2017.
The SABI team was comprised of members from several IBEW locals, including Local 1245, Local 77 and Local 111. SMUD Lineman Carl Keehn, NV Energy Lineman Samson Wilson and Business Representative Ralph Kenyon (who were all part of the first Suriname trip in 2015), along with NV Energy Mechanic John Wilson and PG&E Linemen Cloudell Douglas and Andrew West, all represented Local 1245 on the mission.
“I’ve been wanting to be part of a team to help impoverished or underdevelopment countries for years,” said Douglas. “After viewing (SABI Founder) Brady Hansen’s presentation … I was sold. I would’ve risked wealth and health to be able assist in bringing our skills, safety training, and practices from the States to the lineworkers abroad because I felt compelled.”
“Other than a minimal language barrier, we were able to work side by side with the local Surinamese linemen to complete the work safely and effectively,” said Wilson. “The crews here are bonded together just the like the crews we work with in the States. They eat together, joke, rib each other and laugh, just as we do. They truly are their brother’s keepers.”
“For all the differences between our countries, there are some things that just don’t change,” said West. “They have same daily challenges; job starting late because the wrong material showed up, the truck broke down. They even have same personalities, like the hotshot cowboy lineman who will take shortcuts to get work done faster just to show off, the professional who is fast, smooth and does it the right way, and everything in between.”
“All of the hands that I worked with were excellent and eager improve the safety and reliability of their company,” said Douglas. “They have the heart and determination of the Founders of the IBEW. They’re keeping the lights on in a place where the jungle is constantly trying to take over any and every structure they’ve erected.”
“The work that Brady Hansen started four years ago is paying off, and the work we’ve put in is taking hold and having an effect,” West continued. “The linemen in Suriname are actively participating in the development of their own safety culture. The company, EBS, has demonstrated a desire to work with its employees. And SABI to make lasting improvements to the safety standards. Everyone was tremendously welcoming and hospitable. I feel the trip was very successful and productive, it was very rewarding to participate in. I’m very proud of the guys down there and the work they are doing.”
“This experience truly shows how hard the IBEW has fought for safety and the progression of the lineman trade. It has taken decades for us, but because of our history I believe we can advance developing countries even quicker,” noted Wilson. “My overall takeaway is that I am eager to do more! I am humbled by the experience and honored. I am extremely proud to be a part of such a forward-thinking Local. “
Photos by Samson Wilson, Andrew West, Cloudell Douglas and Ralph Kenyon