I'm both amazed and surprised by how many multi-generational families live in Rodgers Forge. My own children have told me that when they grow up they want to live here. Our community can be somewhat magical. I was lucky enough to score some fantastic neighbors whose parents also live in Rodgers Forge. And I am lucky enough to sit and chat with these people on a consistent basis.
So I wasn't all that surprised to discover that Cathie Felter, of Hopkins Road, being the kind, gentle and good-hearted person that she is, has been a volunteer with American Friends Service Committee since the 1950s. The committee is a Quaker organization that "promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action," according to its website.
Cathie considers working with the committee her "heart work" and says she is "an eternally grateful volunteer." Her first experience with the committee was as an exchange student in England during her junior year of high school. She has continued to serve on various committees, including a period on the national board, until recently. But one specific experience, from 1967, is the one she feels had the greatest impact on her life.
Working for the service committee that year, she heard about a volunteer group called The Visa Vietnam Group. The Vietnam War was underway, Cathie was in her mid-20s and married but with no children, and she felt a calling to go to Vietnam. She volunteered at the Children's Hospital in Saigon, specifically working in the Kwashiorkor Room, which was the ward for extremely malnourished orphans. She fed and bathed these children who could not even lift their own limbs.
"One little boy, two years of age, was so weak we had to prop him up in bed every day," she said. "He died while I was at the hospital because he choked on his own saliva. The time was so dear. And sad. It was eye opening. How could we let these things happen?"
In January 1968 the Tet Offensive began and the service committee decided to evacuate her group from Vietnam, citing safety concerns. But on the day of the offensive, Cathie and the other volunteers rode their bicycles to the hospital to work. Since it was not safe to go home, they stayed at the hospital, listening to a small transistor radio in the evening.
"On the news it was announced that the Viet Cong had fired on the hospital – but they had not. We had been at the hospital the entire time. That was when I learned that you cannot blindly trust the news. You have to watch what you believe."
What an inspiration.