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One-fifth of the world’s population—1.5 billion people—live without electricity, making even the most mundane tasks a challenge. It’s a situation the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s International program was designed to help remedy. But in 1997, the program was in financial difficulty and deemed ineligible for the federal grants needed to pursue its work.
Enter Jim Durnil. The certified public accountant and member of Cherokee County Electric Cooperative Association had experience troubleshooting for financially troubled corporations. NRECA International hired him to straighten the books. The effort was successful, and subsequently Durnil was hired to manage the program. During his seven-year tenure as president at NRECA International, electricity was provided to 10 million people who were living without.
For his efforts, Durnil received the NRECA International Award at the 2012 NRECA annual meeting in March.
“I think the most rewarding experience was going to these areas when they lit the lights for the first time,” Durnil said. “I was in Bolivia, and the chief of the village found out that I was instigating the electric program, and they wanted me to stay for two days and have a celebration. Through an interpreter, he told me that he’s so happy that now his children can work during the day and study at night.”
Ashley Clary-Carpenter, field editor
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