Kelly Morris shares his perspective on NPCA’s Benevolent Fund

 In his own words…. Kelly Morris shares his perspective on NPCA’s Benevolent Fund.

 

Were it not for my Peace Corps friends working with NPCA’s Benevolent Fund who came to our assistance, I don’t know what we would have done. I feel very humbled by the actions of my friends in the RPCV community. Having chosen a life of service to others, I never imagined that one day I would need and be the beneficiary of others’ service to me. I am extremely grateful for all their contributions to us.

 

I was obliged to retire early at the age of 55 when I was diagnosed – on the same day I had a heart attack - with esophageal cancer, followed by by a long series of additional medical problems. Prior to that, I had served more than 19 years with Peace Corps, first as a Volunteer and Volunteer Leader for three and a half years in Togo, followed by 16 years as Peace Corps staff in Africa and Washington, D.C. This service was interrupted by a 10-year stint with the international credit union movement, living in and traveling to Francophone Africa to promote member-owned-and-operated democratic savings and credit cooperatives. I also spent three years as a carpenter in North Carolina, eventually designing and building a passive solar home.

 

In 1981, I founded the Friends of Togo/Les Amis du Togo, the first of many country-of-service RPCV groups organized along the “Friends of ...” model. In 1997, I created an email “listserv” for FoT – Togo-L – that grew to more than 800 subscribers. I kept Togo-L active through 2008 when my declining health caused me to reduce the time that I could devote to it.

 

Since retiring, I have tried to supplement my declining income by writing – as a contract writer for development NGOs and agencies and by writing projects of my own. I have two collections of short stories set in Africa as well as a non-fiction book that are nearly “printer-ready.” Contract opportunities have dried up, however, and my own books are unlikely to generate significant income.

 

By 2014, my son – who lives with and cares for me – and I were in dire straits. I often had to make the choice between buying food or filling a prescription. We endured several winters where we were without heating oil for weeks at a time. It has become a strain to pay the property taxes on my home where I am determined to continue living. Our home began to fall into disrepair. Facing up to the fact that I would never again see Africa and my friends and in-laws there was extremely depressing.

 

In late 2014, however, Peace Corps friends Bill and Anne Piatt visited us and were alarmed by what they saw. They quickly organized a group composed primarily of more than 100 Togo RPCVs and staff who contributed money, time, and effort to get us back on our feet. In a very real sense, in the winter of 2014-15 they rescued me and prolonged my life and my ability to remain productive. During the 18 months that followed, I was more comfortable than I had been in years and hopeful that my health problems were under control.

 

On June 30, 2016, however, I woke up in a hospital intensive care unit. I had no idea where I was nor why I was there and my son, who has no driver’s license and no funds for taxis, was not there. I learned that he had found me unconscious eight days earlier and quickly called 911. A case of pneumonia had crept up on me and quickly deteriorated into a case of severe sepsis. It would have killed me within hours were it not for the quick action of my son, the volunteer EMTs, and the doctors and nurses who treated me. I was in hospital for a month. Recovery has been difficult and slowed by a series of severe infections, including one that returned me to hospital in early February 2018 for eight days.

 

As the end of 2017 approached, we were faced with having insufficient funds to pay our property taxes and to pay for heating oil for the approaching winter. We were facing a cold winter and the auction of our home in May 2018. Were it not for my Peace Corps friends working with NPCA’s Benevolent Fund who came to our assistance, I don’t know what we would have done. I feel very humbled by the actions of my friends in the RPCV community. Having chosen a life of service to others, I never imagined that one day I would need and be the beneficiary of others’ service to me. I am extremely grateful for all their contributions to us. Having reduced expenses and adopted new financial strategies, I look forward to being able to stay afloat in the coming years.

 


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