Read below for a joint letter from QVS staff and board about the April 2022 decision to pause the QVS Atlanta program.
In 2020 we knew that the COVID-19 pandemic would profoundly impact Quaker Voluntary Service and require us to be nimble in making adaptations to protect each other and our loved ones from the virus. We were creative in our responses and had two impactful years of service during COVID. What we could not have known is that these years of off-and-on remote school and work would cause our young adult applicant pool to become increasingly dispersed over time. This isolation and remote schooling has frayed our most effective recruitment tool: connections between current and recent Fellows and younger applicants. Additionally, the early 2022 surge in COVID-19 cases from the Omicron variant canceled in-person opportunities during the peak recruitment season for the 2022-2023 fellowship year. This has resulted in a much smaller class of incoming Fellows.
For this reason, QVS staff and board have made the decision to take a sabbath year from serving in Atlanta. A sabbath year in Atlanta will allow us to fulfill our mission and center the experiences of incoming Fellows. Because there are fewer applicants this year, we want to ensure that there are enough Fellows for full and robust intentional communities in as many cities as possible.
QVS was born in Atlanta, and we’ve had a house there since 2011. QVS has grown into the organization we are today because of this birthplace. We have deep roots, trust, relationships, and we believe that we’ll be able to faithfully discern our next steps together. By taking a sabbath year in Atlanta, we will be able to retain staff expertise through internal QVS staff shuffling. Additionally, the Atlanta house we are renting for QVS Fellows will soon become unavailable to us; a transition in houses was already imminent.
Faith-based service organizations as well as colleges and internship programs are experiencing similar challenges and low application numbers. As we prepare for a sabbath year in Atlanta, QVS staff are considering new recruitment strategies for a world that involves fewer in-person visits, a changing job market, inflation and rising cost of living, and reduced capacity of career services staff and connectors. We will be looking to each other, our peers, and the Religious Society of Friends for innovations that will both get the word out about QVS as well as make the program a good fit for a broader range of young adults. One concrete way you can help is by letting young adults know about the opportunity to apply to QVS. We are accepting applicants on a rolling basis.
Looking to the future
As it turns out, we began 2022 intending to focus on planning for the future. We are already in the midst of beginning a strategic planning process that will last through the end of 2022. We are excited to have the opportunity to celebrate our 10 years of transformative work. And, we firmly believe that making this tough decision to pause the Atlanta program will ensure that we will continue for another 10 more years and beyond. This process will certainly include conversation about the current context and recruitment strategies for the future. We look forward to sharing more with you in the coming months about how you can engage with us in this process.
We are so glad to be on this journey with you, through the celebrations and the challenges. Thank you for your continued understanding, your support, and your belief in QVS and its mission.
Hilary Burgin, QVS Executive Director
Damon Motz-Storey, Presiding Clerk of QVS Board
Beth Henricks, Assistant Clerk of QVS Board