Born to a Quaker family in an Indiana house that had been a station on the Underground Railroad, Martha Gwyn heard mention of AFSC in her formative years. But her personal involvement really started in the 1940s when she was a student at Earlham College.
“The work camp movement made a big impression on me,” Martha says. “It accomplished things. It made friends. It contributed to a community in nearly every case. It did lots of things.”
Her first work camp was in a segregated black neighborhood in Indianapolis, where she spent her weekends sharing meals, working on community projects, and participating in meetings for worship. She later went to California and Minnesota for longer work camps, where she built houses, helped with plumbing, supported an insurance cooperative, and worked in fields rescuing crops.
After World War II, Martha volunteered in European work camps at institutions that housed refugees, mainly young people from Eastern Europe who had escaped west. She also recalls remodeling a girls’ foster home in Switzerland around 1950. They had to rely on trucked-in water after American tanks drove over weakened pipes and broke the water mains.
At 88, Martha is rich in memories and experiences. She enjoys talking about the community efforts she’s been part of, from her college days to her time in Hawaii, where she was active with Honolulu Friends Meeting. She also fondly recalls camping trips with her husband Robert, a professor at the University of North Carolina and an active member of the community, and their eight children, seven of whom were adopted from a variety of countries and backgrounds.
Through the years, Martha has remained an active supporter of AFSC. Recently, she set up a gift annuity. “I wasn’t deciding as part of a one-time event or a two-time event,” she notes. “I was responding to one of the basic ongoing happenings in my life.” The annuity provides her with a steady income stream, and at the same time helps ensure that AFSC’s work for peace and justice will continue long into the future.
“Anyone who knows anything about AFSC—you know why to support it,” says Martha. “There are no limits to what the AFSC can do that’s constructive.”