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Benevolent Fund

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    We celebrate return of Volunteers to service. And pay tribute to a leader at NPCA. see more

    As we celebrate Volunteers returning to service in dozens of countries, we pay tribute to a leader here at NPCA who made a difference at a critical time for the Peace Corps community.


    By Dan Baker

    At left: El Paso, 2019 — Glenn Blumhorst assists migrants at the border. 


    Just as the Winter 2023 edition of WorldView went press, Carol Spahn was sworn in as Director of the Peace Corps. I was delighted to be there as RPCV Rep. John Garamendi delivered the oath of office. This is an exciting and important moment. The Peace Corps community has spent nearly three years seeking to maintain and restore Volunteer programs across the world. There have been enormous obstacles, and the Peace Corps has emerged from the pandemic with a renewed clarity of purpose, better Volunteer services, and an undeniable sense of urgency that it hasn’t seen since its inception. And at the beginning of 2023, the return to service continues to gain strength and momentum, thanks to the hard work of hundreds of local Peace Corps staff, agency leaders, health and safety professionals, recruiters, and all of those who make these programs possible. We especially celebrate Volunteers boldly leading the way into the new Peace Corps.

    The pandemic forced National Peace Corps Association, like many organizations, to pivot in unforeseeable ways. The past few years have arguably been the most important in the history of this community-driven organization. NPCA itself looks much different than it did even one year ago. One of the key changes we must acknowledge was the departure last year of NPCA’s longest-serving president and CEO, Glenn Blumhorst.

    We celebrate Glenn’s important new role with the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation, which will establish a commemorative just steps from the Capitol. At the same time, many at NPCA will greatly miss his leadership of the organization. I find it fitting to honor his tenure at NPCA in this edition of WorldView by sharing some of his Peace Corps story — and a few of his most important achievements.


    Amplifying Impact

    Glenn launched his career with the Peace Corps, serving as an agriculture extension Volunteer in Guatemala 1988–91, supporting 18 rural Mayan Indian communities in the central highlands. Those who know his skills and dedication to service would not be surprised to know how successful he was as a Volunteer, working to increase household incomes, build an elementary school, and bring electricity to a remote village of 40 families. That work led him to nearly two decades of increasing leadership roles with the international development organization ACDI/VOCA. Then, in 2013, following a national search by NPCA, Glenn was brought on to serve as its president and CEO.


    Glenn Blumhorst and 3 colleagues in village in Guatemala

    Community partners: In the highlands of Guatemala, from left, Manuel Alvarado, Tiburcio Alvarado, Carmelina Alvarado Gonzales, and Volunteer Glenn Blumhorst. Photo courtesy Glenn Blumhorst


    Glenn soon set to work transforming NPCA: guiding the organization from struggling alumni association to a dynamic community-driven social impact enterprise. That new vision was informed in large part by Glenn’s “listening tours” across the country — meeting with NPCA affiliate group leaders, donors, and individual members to better understand their priorities. His travels took him to meet with members of the Peace Corps community in all 50 states — at potluck dinners and annual meetings, community service projects and RPCV reunions — to listen and share experiences and, together, plan for the future.

    Glenn restored and strengthened NPCA’s financial health by adopting a new business model: moving away from a dues-paying membership to opening membership to all. NPCA invited community members to invest in and support causes they care about, and NPCA provided avenues for voluntary financial contributions. That quadrupled annual revenues, enabled us to triple our staff and grow programs, and exponentially increased member engagement in NPCA’s mission. RPCV affiliate groups grew as well, from 130 to 185 under Glenn’s leadership, with many focusing explicitly on specific social impact causes.

    Glenn helped modernize NPCA’s advocacy program and grew constituent outreach. That fed successful efforts to increase Peace Corps’ federal appropriations by $30 million — and it helped fend off attempts to slash the agency’s budget (even defund it!) as well thwart an ill-advised attempt to fold the Peace Corps into the State Department. Along the way, Glenn ensured NPCA never lost sight of important reforms needed within the agency to improve Volunteer safety, security, healthcare, and post-service benefits. A milestone in that work: The Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act, signed into law in 2018, which improved the provisioning of healthcare for Volunteers, program oversight, and how the agency handles sexual assault allegations.


    Living Peace Corps Ideals

    The lack of services for returning Volunteers is something Glenn understood. He worked with NPCA to put in place — well before COVID-19 hit — the framework for the Global Reentry Program. That program was launched immediately when the global evacuation of Volunteers was announced in March 2020. (I stepped down from the NPCA Board to join the staff as director of the program.) The long-term vision is to provide a bridge between Volunteers’ service and a lifetime of Peace Corps ideals.

    Amid the turmoil of the pandemic’s early days, NPCA also successfully lobbied for $88 million in additional support for Volunteers; and NPCA worked to get the U.S. Department of Labor to issue guidelines that evacuated Volunteers were eligible for help under the Pandemic Assistance Program.


    Michelle Obama, Glenn Blumhorst, Barack Obama

    Global partnership: In 2015 with Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama, Glenn Blumhorst marks the launch of the Let Girls Learn initiative. Photo by Pete Souza/The White House


    In summer 2020, harnessing the experience, commitment, and innovative ideas of the Peace Corps community, NPCA convened a series of national town halls and a global ideas summit under the title Peace Corps Connect to the Future. A community-driven report from the summit contained over 220 recommendations to Congress, the Peace Corps agency and executive branch, and the Peace Corps community. It has served as a vital roadmap for many reforms and improvements that began being implemented by Peace Corps leadership prior to the return of Volunteers to service. It’s fair to say this community-driven effort also laid the groundwork for some of the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation proposals in a generation.

    These are just a few of the initiatives Glenn led NPCA to tackle. There is the launch of the Community Fund to support community projects by Volunteers, returned Volunteers — and, beginning in 2020, evacuated Volunteers — in the U.S. and globally. There is the Benevolent Fund, to support RPCVs experiencing acute hardship. And in the future, there will be Peace Corps Place, envisioned as a hub for the Peace Corps community in the Truxton Circle neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

    Glenn has begun leading a multimillion-dollar capital campaign to underwrite design and construction of the Peace Corps Commemorative. It will honor the creation of the Peace Corps in 1961 and those aspects of the American character exemplified by Peace Corps service. We are deeply grateful to Glenn for his past, present, and future service to Peace Corps ideals, and we look forward to celebrating this commemorative together when it is completed.


    As a part of all that NPCA has accomplished under Glenn’s leadership, we have seen tremendous growth in how NPCA tells its stories. The past three years this work has been led by Director of Strategic Communications and Editor of WorldView Steven Saum. With thought and care, the WorldView team has crafted a magazine of powerful stories and images. Those efforts have earned top national awards the past two years. Behind the scenes, Steven also orchestrated NPCA’s social media presence, newsletters, and other publications — notably the “Peace Corps Connect to the Future” report. We are sorry to announce that this will be Steven’s last edition of WorldView magazine as he moves into a new role in California.

    Interim successors for Glenn and Steven are in place, but we will stand on their shoulders as we move into the next chapters of support for a united and vibrant Peace Corps community. Please keep in touch, and stay connected online and through our email newsletters. And watch for more important Peace Corps news in upcoming editions of WorldView.

    Dan Baker is President and CEO of National Peace Corps Association. He served as a Volunteer in Bolivia 1999–2002 and Timor-Leste 2002–03, and with Peace Corps staff in Washington, D.C., Costa Rica, and Ethiopia. Write him.

     February 02, 2023
  • Meisha Robinson posted an article
    In his own words, Kelly Morris shares his perspective on NPCA’s Benevolent Fund. see more

     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.


    Help us to help others in need with your contribution to NPCA’s Benevolent Fund.


     February 28, 2018