When Henry Miller founded the IBEW in 1891, little did he know that the same principles that started our union in St. Louis would be alive and well 125 years later in the tiny country of Suriname. Of course, there’s no way Miller could ever have imagined that the almost evangelical Brady Hansen, along with Kurk Shriver, Rick Irvine, and Joe Baker, would start the Suriname American Brotherhood Initiative (SABI) to bring the principles of safety and brotherhood to the small South American country, and make the world seem just a little bit smaller.
Hansen and his co-founders visited Suriname in 2014, helping build a training center and providing initial training to many of the country’s linemen. This year, the same group has returned with 10 additional trainers from IBEW 1245 and other locals throughout the Northwest.
After two days of travel, four flights and a 3:30 AM check-in, the 7:30 start came very quickly. Fueled by coffee and adrenaline, the gang of 14 headed off to a meet and greet with EBS executives in Paramaribo, the Surinamese capital.
From there, five of the trainers went to the American Embassy to inform the diplomats of the SABI program. With the long term vision of a “Linemen Without Borders” organization, any chance to broaden the effort is welcomed.
The other trainers went to the local EBS (utility company) yard to sort through the generous corporate donations collected by Local 1245. PG&E donated enough new EH boots to outfit every lineman in the country. SMUD and Nevada Energy also made generous donations to SABI.
To say the EBS linemen were grateful would be an understatement. The smiles and fist pumps spoke a thousand words. After a ceremony with the crew foremen and supervisors, Hansen handed CTO Marcel Eyndhoven a ceremonial gift of a climber’s hook. Boots, gloves and safety glasses were given to all the attendees.
Included among the trainers are 1245 linemen Carl Keehn from SMUD, Samson Wilson from Nevada Energy and James Scott from ILB. With formal training set to begin on Wednesday, Keehn summed up day one the best. “These are our brothers, and what an incredible gift to be able to preach the theory behind ‘Brother’s Keeper.'”
Report compiled by IBEW 1245 Assistant Business Manager Bob Gerstle
Photos by John Storey