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Working through retirement

Longtime friends not ready to call it quits doing the work they love

Created date

May 8th, 2018
Terry Graham developed a love for Africa after serving in Ethiopia in the Peace Corps. She cofounded The Global Transformation Network with her friend and Charlestown neighbor Diana Mood.

Terry Graham developed a love for Africa after serving in Ethiopia in the Peace Corps. She cofounded The Global Transformation Network with her friend and Charlestown neighbor Diana Mood.

While their retired neighbors at Charlestown are drinking their morning coffee and working out in the fitness center, Diana Mood and Terry Graham are preparing for a trip to northeastern Ethiopia. There they will train the staff of a new 150-student school in a remote region on how to educate and care for people with disabilities.

For the last 18 years, Diana and Terry, cofounders of The Global Transformation Network (GTN), a not-for-profit Christian organization, have worked tirelessly to give people with disabilities across the globe a voice.

“Our focus has been training disabled people, volunteers, and professionals how to reach out and include people with disabilities,” says Diana, who estimates GTN has directly and indirectly impacted tens of thousands of people. “People with disabilities are often marginalized, and so our goal is to encourage and train people on how they may become advocates for people with disabilities within the context of what they are already doing to encourage disabled people to be leaders and decision-makers.”

Personal connection

Diana’s passion for helping people with disabilities stems from her firsthand experience in caring for her best friend who became a quadriplegic in 1967 after a tragic accident.

“One month after we graduated from high school, Joni dove into shallow water and broke her neck,” says Diana. “Since she was my best friend, I wanted to walk alongside her during that journey. I helped take care of her for the first 12 years after she was injured. I learned an awful lot and became interested in helping people with disabilities.”

Terry developed her desire to help people with disabilities after serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia in 1965.

“My love of Ethiopia and Africa, in general, started way back when I was in elementary school,” she says. After high school, I had the opportunity to be internationally involved and travel to Africa with the Peace Corp.”

Terry and Diana, who met in high school, combined their skills and experience to form GTN in 2000. Together, they wear a variety of different hats: developing and writing training materials, public relations, fundraising, and the daily logistics associated with running an international organization.

“Diana does a lot of the day-to-day detailed administrative work, and I tend to communicate with the people abroad. When we have a project or a conference, I am the point person,” says Terry.

The longtime friends run the network from their homes at Charlestown, an Erickson Living community in Catonsville, Md., where they live on opposite ends of the 110-acre campus.

“I moved from a very large house in the middle of a horse pasture in western Howard County where I didn’t have any neighbors,” says Diana. “Now I’m living in a studio apartment with 2,000-plus neighbors, and I love it! The community is convenient to everything, and the people are great.”

Redefining retirement

Diana and Terry are among a growing number of retirement-age people who continue to work, not for financial reasons, but because they’re passionate about their vision.

A recent survey conducted by the nonprofit research firm RAND found nearly 40% of workers over 65 had retired previously at some point.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more older Americans—those age 65 and older—are working than at any time since the turn of the century.

What’s more, today’s older workers are spending more time on the job than did their peers in previous years.

For example, in May 2016, 18.8% of Americans ages 65-plus reported being employed full or part time, continuing a steady increase that dates back to 2000 when just 12.8% said they were working.

If you ask Diana and Terry when they plan to retire, their answer is simple: they don’t.

“It’s so rewarding knowing we are making a difference in people’s lives,” says Terry. “We get a lot of joy from it.”

Diana says, “Retired or not, the important thing is to continue engaging in meaningful relationships with people. To cheerfully encourage and invest in others. To model understanding and compassion in those relationships. To help others find inner strength in their weakness. And to find purpose and meaning in any adversity. It isn’t about us; it’s a God thing.”

For more information on the Global Transformation Network, visit gtninc.org.

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