Guillermo Layerenza, NRECA International
Since Guillermo Layerenza started working at NRECA in January, he’s traveled between Virginia, Benin, Nigeria, and Tanzania – not your average commute to work. And now, he can add Sierra Leone to the list, where he manages an NRECA International project that will help create a roadmap for this troubled country to have reliable electricity.
Born in northern Argentina, Guillermo grew up on co-op lines— the Cooperativa Electrica de Concordia, one of the largest electric co-ops in Argentina. NRECA International was in Guillermo’s sights long before he came here. He even worked on projects that would be the foundation of several NRECA International projects. This includes a successful project in the north of Haiti, where NRECA is managing a USAID-funded project that has provided electricity to 8,600 households, businesses, and government institutions throughout five towns. Guillermo is excited to be part of the team that is implementing a vision he was part of years ago.
“I have learned how big the cooperative world is in the U.S., and I have also learned about state-of-the-art technologies that co-ops here are implementing with NRECA’s help,” said Guillermo. “I can see that under the right conditions, it would be easy for us to move that knowledge and apply it to the countries we are working in.”
His role as project manager in a country people immediately associate with Ebola provides interesting challenges, but Guillermo believes that’s what makes the need even bigger.
“There are huge needs in Sierra Leone, and the people feel that because of the fear to this deadly disease they have been left behind by the world. I am proud to be part of an organization with ongoing projects in Liberia and Sierra Leone that shows them this is not the case.”
The decade-long civil war which ended in 2001 and the recent Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone left the country reeling, without the necessary transmission-distribution infrastructure for growth in industry, commerce and agriculture. To address this, Guillermo and his team are working with staff from Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Energy to prepare a transmission and investment plan to help the country’s government expand reliable electricity services to its capital and surrounding areas. The plan also will serve as a guide for grid development activities over the next 15 years.
In early July, Guillermo was eager to kick off this project and be in the field. It’s a gratifying experience for him to see the project designs and plans that originated in the office come to fruition.
“You have quite a different perspective of the work you are doing after sitting behind a computer,” he explains. “On the ground, you experience all of the real challenges and the issues the developing country is facing.”
Like many of his NRECA International teammates, Guillermo’s work transcends the usual 9-5 desk job.
“You learn a lot about the country, the project, the culture, and what people do to make a living. And you realize how important all the things we take for granted are.”
And like all of his teammates, the world is their office.