Nancy Tongue Defends Glenn Blumhorst Against NPCA Board

Dear NPCA Board of Directors,

Nancy E. Tongue (Chile 1980-82)

I have heard about the dismissal of Glenn Blumhorst from NPCA and am most distressed about it. I understand there were rumors on social media but I didn’t take them seriously until I received the email from NPCA last week and was shocked. I have read the plaintiff report and also am aware that the case against him was reviewed by Attorney Herbet, an independent legal counsel and that Glenn was found unimpeachable by Attorney Herbert. I am dumbfounded that he has been dismissed.

I have suffered severe health issues from my service in the PC in Chile (1980-82) and had been trying, in vain, to get any recognition for the need for help from either NPCA or the Peace Corps for nearly three decades between 1982-2011. In 2011 when Tony Barclay came on board and openly listened to my story about the suffering of so many of us who could not access adequate health help for service incurred health issues, he came to NY to meet me, contacted Carrie Hessler-Radelet who immediately also came to New York to solicit my help and insight. She arranged for me to meet with the Deputy Secretary of Labor Chis Lu and all of his district leaders so I could propose improvements for those on disability and those in need of liaisons. I thought our journey toward reformation had finally begun.
Until then, it seemed no one at NPCA, including the board, wanted to hear a single criticism of the Peace Corps. All I wanted was to get better and to have access to health care and a living wage on disability. Remember, until the ACA, none of us with illnesses could access healthcare in America because the illnesses accrued in the Peace Corps became “pre-existing” once we returned. Some RPCVs had to return overseas to get treatments or live because they couldn’t afford to be sick in the US. Those who did obtain disability found that it put them just slightly enough over the poverty level to disallow them to access Medicare healthcare.
Once Glenn Blumhorst came on as President of NPCA, he was not only willing, but fervently fought for justice and Congressional reform of the laws that govern health care in the field and upon return to the states. Importantly, he listened. We have been making more headway under his tenure than we had for 30 years prior. He has helped orchestrate new legislation that I, Jonathan Pearson, and other RPCVs have arduously worked on, and that, if passed, will directly positively affect people like me who desperately need an increase in disability wage income through an increased PC budget (see PC Reauthorization Act (https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1456/text). This legislation also addresses the need for improvements in mental health care and antimalarial medications to list only a few. Without him, I feel we will lose the possibility of this legislation passing and many of us will lose a great leader.
Over these years I have met with Glenn numerous times in the NPCA office both alone and with other NPCA employees, on the Hill with staffers, with other RPCvs and directly with Congressional legislators. I have met with him in DC and in NYC in various venues including in motels, restaurants, lobbies and other places both publicly and privately to discuss strategies. He has always been extremely professional and appropriate. He has personally backed our www.healthjusticeforpeacecorpsvolunteers.org mission (which I founded under the auspices of NPCA), working as a stakeholder with me and others at meetings with Peace Corps Directors and Acting Directors and other PC staff through the past decade.
He is one of the most respectful and empathetic persons I know, always caring, honoring boundaries both physical and emotional, focused on the mission of improving the efforts of RPCVs and programs in the US and in the field overseas. I would trust him to work with honor and deference in any situation.
I am disgusted to learn of the way in which a man of his stature was dismissed, or that he was dismissed at all. I have not been in the NPCA office in the past two years so I can not speak of things that have transpired between persons there I do not know.
I question the validity of what has been presented in the material I have read criticizing Glenn. I truly fear that without the leadership of Glenn that many RPCVs now will lack support and that people in my position will never get the health underpinning we so desperately need. As stated above, for over 40 years I have not obtained the help I have needed from the Peace Corps staff or directors (with the exception of Carrie Hessler-Hadelet for a short term) and have given up the hope that the Peace Corps will truly ever put the health and security of Volunteers and RPCVs first. Glenn has been determined to elicit not just help, but actual reform. I expected better conduct from the Board of Directors of an agency such as NPCA.
Many seem to continue to want to admire the Peace Corps and the NPCA from a distance with recollections from the “good” old days of their Peace Corps service, Does the board really want to work toward improving the Peace Corps and life for RPCVs even if it means facing issues that should be challenged, using their position in a mission to do so? Are they willing to face the tarnish and make the agency and all of us better? Or do they want to continue to simply polish the shine on the image of the Peace Corps and continue telling their old Peace Corps stories?
I know many, who have been sick or injured through the years afraid to speak out for fear of reprisals or loss of the health care or disability benefits and I accept that. But I know many more in financial and social positions who have been unwilling to do so due to potential damage to the Peace Corps “name.” I include some PC staff and Board Members in this group. Glenn, along with Jonathan Pearson, has been desirous to speak the truth about the journeys of those of us suffering. My concern grows that the board wants to continue to protect the Peace Corps in a glass bubble rather than calling out its flaws to work to make the PC the best agency it can be.  I fear the purpose of the NPCA mission will be lost if Glenn can be dismissed in the manner he has, having already been exonerated.
I feel I can no longer trust a board that behaves in this manner, not seeing who Glenn Blumhorst is or has done for NPCA and so many. Glenn is a caring and dedicated person, always working ceasely to improve the agencies and reaching out to individuals in distress with empathy, often traveling across the country to do so. Without him, we all will suffer.
I kindly ask that since the Board enlisted an independent investigator who concluded that the allegations of misconduct were not credible, that they please re-evaluate their decision and reinstate him in his position.
Sincerely,
Nancy E. Tongue
Chile (1980-82)

Nancy Tongue (Chile 1980-82) founder of Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers (HJPCV)

14 Comments

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  • Nancy,

    Good for you! This is what Glenn needs to hear–and so too does the NPCA Board. All the personal travail that you and fellow Volunteers have gone through to secure well-earned health benefits was totally unnecessary given that they were most definitely service connected–and have adversely affected your life since then.

    Stay the course and you will prevail.

    Sincerely,
    Jeremiah Norris
    Colombia 1963-65

  • If Glenn even wants to return to head our RPCVs again, he is an even better person than most of us already thought he was. I do hope this matter can be cleared up soon. It is taking up too much bandwidth when we should be moving on with other important work.

  • What an articulate plea! I think much of this could be cleared up with more transparency from both the board and whoever has made these accusations. It seems I read in one of these posts in defense of the current board, that we don’t have all of the information and “should trust the board.” I think that this is at the crux of the whole affair–the need for total transparency.

  • Instead of begging, give the kangaroo board 10 days to resign- all of them. If they do not comply call for a nationwide boycott of the organization, no bucks, no Buck Rogers. Write congressmen and women, senators.

  • Thank you Nancy for your heartfelt input. My wife and I are Shriver Circle members. We heard about the boards decision early last week. I was dumbfounded. I’ve know Glenn professionally since the late ‘90’s when he was working in Bolivia with ACDI/VOCA and I arrived as a volunteer with the organization. We bonded immediately, as we had served with the Peace Corps in Guatemala.
    My wife and I were co-founders of our local RPCV group back in the mid’80’s. We have interacted with the NPCA over the years. We were not impressed with National’s work until Glenn assumed leadership. Finally the NPCA was reaching it’s potential. Now this? I have to wonder what got into the mind of the current board? What has led them on this self destructive path?
    We are withholding our usual contribution. The current board and interim leader need to step down or be removed. Their actions are misguided at best , unprofessional and extremely damaging to the organization, perhaps fatal. Restore Glenn, and appoint a new board. Move forward.

  • Nancy,

    Would you indulge me for one more comment, please? In the Covid years, when Peace Corps had to recall all Volunteers from the field, there were only two voices out there which continued to keep alive the concept of Peace Corps itself: John Coyne’s WorldWide publications and Glenn’s leadership at NPCA. How Glenn was able to convince our Congress to continue annual appropriations when there were no active Volunteers remains a mystery to me! And although Peace Corps first two goals were inert during this time frame, John Coyne’s publications gave amble evidence that its 3rd Goal was alive and well. It said to the Congress: look at what these former Volunteers do in their communities when they return home!
    Isn’t that worth another appropriation!

    I read the NPCA Boards explanation for its actions but had a difficult time moving on after its lead-in sentence: “NPCA stresses to be a trusted leader and convener within the Peace Corps community”. If it really believes that after what it did to Glenn, then I most certainly no longer desire to be part of a ‘community’ that has suspended due process.

  • Jerry, thank you for your comments about Glenn and the NPCA. I agree. I would also just add that I am able to comment about the agency and the NPCA because of the hard and creative work of Marian Haley Beil (Ethiopia 1962-64) who developed our Peace Corps Writers (as well as Peace Corps Books) years ago. Marian designed the site and is also the publisher. She is the person who makes it possible for all of us to have our say. John

    • John,
      I am trying to reach you in regard to the archives of the PCVs who spoke at the Capitol on November 21, 1988. I was one of those speakers. I would also like to know if anyone every contacted NBC to find out if the video of the speakers still exists. According to a comment I read in 2010, all of the speakers were recorded. Thank you. I know this doesn’t relate to the disastrous actions of the NPCA board, but I can’t figure out how to reach you.

  • John,

    Right about Marian. I don’t quite know how she is able to do all that she does–but I sure hope she continues doing it.

    Warmly,
    Jerry

  • Nancy, I’m very pleased that you detailed the long-term involvement of Glenn (and Jonathan Pearson and yourself) on this critical matter of health services for returned volunteers. I became involved on sessions of strategy and policy because Glenn, knowing my OIG policy background, asked me to. In fact, there has been no one better than Glenn at mobilizing our participation: annual advocacy visits to the Hill, letters to Congress urging increased Peace Corps budgets and reauthorization, Peace Corps Connects to keep us informed/involved, a program of trainings and job search for the evacuated volunteers, contribution solicitations. Since the Board’s continuing issues appear to be internal and office-related, why not just hire an office manager to oversee staff and HR matters, and let Glenn, as President and CEO, continue to successfully focus on achieving the NPCA’s mission (which is the primary responsibility of an organization’s CEO).

    May I add my thanks to Marian and John for providing, along with Peace Corps Writers, this important Peace Corps Worldwide communications site.

  • YELLING FIRE

    Be careful what you say (or what you conduit).

    YELLING FIRE

    Be careful what you say (or what you conduit).

    Yelling “fire” in a crowded space such as a theater

    YELLING FIRE

    Be careful what you say (or what you conduit).

    Yelling “fire” in a crowded space such as a theater

    is similar to an incitement to violence.

    It’s not part of the definition of “free speech”
    because it threatens people with physical harm.

    YELLING FIRE

    Be careful what you way (or what you conduit).

    YELLING FIRE

    Be careful what you say (or what you conduit).

    Yelling “fire” in a crowded space such as a theater

    is similar to an incitement to violence.

    It’s not part of the definition of “free speech”

    because it threatens people with physical harm.

    is similar to an incitement to violence.

    It’s not part of the definition of “free speech”

    because it threatens people with physical harm.

    (C) Copyright Edward Mycue

  • We were so impressed with Glenn’s volunteer service at a Texas immigration NGO while he was president of the NPCA that we stepped up immediately and donated to the organization. In our opinion, It was an indicator of his character..The type of person that we need leading the NPCA.

    Gary D. Robinson

  • We also have been voyagers. Of all the voyagers
    in Ithaka who told their odyssey, who
    was it who sat then guessing partially
    wondering into dawn?.

  • I HEAR IN THE WIND

    I hear in the wind long-gone voices
    that knew the language of flowers
    tasted the bitter root, hoped,
    placed stone upon stone, built
    an order, blessed the wild beauty
    of this place.

    ————————————————————————————————————
    Can you hear
    in the wind whispers, crusts
    of soul-insulted soul, scattered
    ages, decided, gone yellow, thin?

    ———————————————————————————————————————
    I hear in the wind those old sorrows
    in new voices, undefeated desires,
    and the muffled advent of something I can only define
    as bright, new angels.

    ————————————————————————————————————-
    Can you hear in the wind independent people
    who never depart,
    have no time for friends,
    who want to go and want
    to stay and never decide in time?

    ———————————————————————————————————————–
    I hear in the wind old phantoms

    and the swirl of the released mustardstar
    and the cry of innocence.
    It will soon be September.
    the sky begins to split open. Now sit, judge.

    © Copyright Edward Mycue

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