Photo: Haley Castle-Miller holding a goat during a QVS Day where the Fellows visited a farm.
When I finished college, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. I graduated with a double major in Peace Studies and Spanish, and all I knew was I wanted to do something to make the world a better place – cliché, I know, but it was a start. There was also a throughline in my life that kept leading me to intentional spiritual community. In highschool, to fulfill a service learning requirement, I chose to volunteer at Koinonia Farm, an intentional Christian community in Georgia. In college, I spent some time at Jonah House, an intentional interfaith community in Baltimore. And, I still hungered for more. Despite having grown up Quaker, I had not heard about Quaker Voluntary Service. (To be fair, in 2016 it was still relatively new.) When I was feeling indecisive about next steps, my dad told me about Quaker Voluntary Service and it immediately felt like the next best thing for me. I let up on job applications and went all in for QVS.
It was exactly what I was looking for at that time in my life. It offered a built-in community of people who were also interested in evaluating how we want to live and what kind of world we want to live in. We explored complex challenges we saw in the world and at our site placements. We had to work through house conflict and create systems that met each other’s needs. I worked at Jane Addams Place, which was a women’s emergency shelter at the time. The placement brought with it a host of emotions and deeper questions, but I found I had an amazing support system both there and at home. Structures like weekly house worship, business meetings, QVS days, and the Spiritual Nurturer program all provided additional support and time for reflection that I wouldn’t have had if I had pursued other options.
QVS was exactly what I was looking for at that time in my life. It offered a built-in community of people who were also interested in evaluating how we want to live and what kind of world we want to live in.
I look back on the year with fondness and also recognize just how young I was and how much I still had to learn. The wonderful thing about QVS is that the transformative part doesn’t stop at the end of the program. There were so many people who helped me not just have a fulfilling year, but have continued to support me throughout many years of growth ever since. Some people I have stayed in close contact with, and others I have had meaningful touchpoints with at times over the years. It is the overall sense of feeling supported by community that stays with me and that I hold so much gratitude for. Transformation continues for years to come as we grow in the communities we create, deepen into who we want to be, and strive for the world we want to see.
It has been seven years since I served in QVS, and I think the program is needed now more than ever. Given the great divides we face as a country, I believe QVS provides what young adults, our communities, and the world needs. To reference the legendary changemaker, Grace Lee Boggs, we must “transform [ourselves] to transform the world.” I believe QVS is a transformative program that fosters lifelong seeking and striving for a better world.
I am so grateful for everyone who made the year possible for me and who continue to support the program.
Haley Castle-Miller (she/her)
Development and Outreach Coordinator
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