This symbolic drawing representing Benjamin Linder’s peaceful and joyous spirit in the act of being the juggler on his unicycle (drawn by Christa Grimm of Portland, Oregon) has been adapted as a logo of ATDER-BL and printed on the back of the electrical company shirts. Benjamin was the visionary and founder of the Cuá-Bocay Project, which is now the ATDER-BL organization.
Ben came to the town of El Cuá in 1985 at the height of the Sandinista-Contra war. Using his skills as a mechanical engineer, a graduate of the University of Washington, he rectified the problems of an existing hydro plant that had never run and for the first time brought light and power to El Cuá, in a war zone and in the midst of heavy fighting. This is where the ATDER-BL field office is still located.
A quote from his biography written by Joan Kruckewitt: “Ben followed his conscience when he moved to El Cuá, a small village in the Nicaraguan war zone, where he, as part of a team of Americans and Nicaraguans, brought electricity to the town. Ben also delighted farmers' children by clowning and unicycling down the village's one dirt road. Ben knew that the area was dangerous, but, for him, the risks were worthwhile. He wrote, ‘I see the kids and I feel like taking them all away to a safe place to hide until the war stops and the hunger stops and El Cuá becomes strong enough to give them the care they deserve. The pied piper of El Cuá. But I can't do that, and even if I could it wouldn't help the neighboring towns. So instead, I try to put in light, and hope for the best.’
Ben was an inspiration and a great motivator of both Nicaraguans and fellow Americans. He caught the attention of the President of the country and was given direct support from his Office. With this support and momentum that he had galvanized he began the building of the San José de Bocay Hydro Project with a team of Nicaraguans and American volunteers.
Unfortunately he also caught the attention of the Contra and on the 28th of April 1987, Ben and two Nicaraguans were killed in a Contra ambush while working at the weir site of the San José de Bocay project. Sergio Hernández and Pablo Rosales were the two Nicaraguans who died with Ben Linder.
In the picture below, Ben is on the left; he is starting the Bocay Project by showing Oscar Blandon how to build the weir, which measures the amount of water in a stream. The two key factors in hydropower is the drop in elevation and how much water there is.
The bulk of the funds for the Bocay Hydro Project was raised by the Linder family: Ben’s parents, brother and sister toured North America and spoke to audiences in 300 cities about Nicaragua, the injustice of Ben’s death and about the project and his work. They raised more than US $800,000, which became the money that allowed for the building of the Bocay Hydro Plant and the El Cuá Machine Shop and for the technical training of many Nicaraguans.
Thank you Benjamin for having seeded our projects and having allowed them possibility with your vision, your courage and with your loving determination.
Benjamin and Oscar, San José de Bocay