What is Quaker Voluntary Service?
Quaker Voluntary Service is a year-long Fellowship program in which young adults between the ages 21-30 build intentional community, work full time at social service and social change agencies, and explore themes of spiritual and personal growth with local Quakers. Fellows receive housing, transportation, food, support for health and wellness (including access to health insurance if needed), and a small stipend, while engaging in regular self-led workshops and retreats that allow for continuing education in social justice, faith, and community building topics.
What do you mean by “service?”
We know that the word “service” can bring to mind negative associations with charity or paternalism. This is not what QVS means by service. QVS partners with agencies and organizations that offer direct support to marginalized individuals and communities or which strive to transform unjust systems through support and advocacy. QVS does not invent service projects for you but rather partners with long standing community based organizations. Through partnering with QVS, these organizations are able to increase their capacity to do work they may not have been able to do without the extra help.
QVS seeks to facilitate a deeper understanding of underlying structural oppression through meaningful work involving learning & growth. You will have direct experience of answering that of God in others through real relationships with real people. When your experience falls short of this ideal, QVS will offer resources for reflection on your experience to equip you to engage in better ways as you move forward.
Check out this video in which QVS alumni share about how they understand (and deconstructed their understanding of) service.
What other benefits does QVS offer?
- After you complete a year of service with QVS, you will be eligible for a full tuition scholarship to Earlham School of Religion. Find more information here.
- QVS is a member of the Volunteers Exploring Vocation network, which includes more than 15 other national faith based year of service programs. As part of this network, QVS Fellows are able to access a host of resources including retreats and grant opportunities. Learn more here.
- As mentioned above, QVS supports Fellows to attend a range of events during the year. Examples include the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s fall or spring lobby weekends in DC and the Friends General Conference summer Gathering.
How can I afford a year of service?
We know that for some, the idea of a year of service seems out of the question due to financial concerns, student loan debt, and other economic pressures. While a year of simple living on a small stipend is certainly not for everyone, we encourage you to consider all of the ways you will be supported during your year with QVS.
Economically, It is our goal that every QVS Fellow leave the year in a financial situation similar to the one they entered in. And while a year of simple living may not increase your financial wealth, it does give you access to social and personal capital which you will carry with you your whole life.
Read more about our Equity initiatives which expand the financial support we are able to offer Fellows from various economic/class backgrounds. Please carefully consider all of these factors as you assess whether you can “afford” to do a year of service, and please be in touch if you wish to talk any of this through with our staff.
What are the dates of the QVS year?
The QVS Service year begins with National Orientation on the campus of Pendle Hill in late August, and ends the following summer on July 31st.
Is QVS planning to expand to other cities?
QVS Board Statement: At the heart of the QVS movement is the partnership between QVS and Quaker meetings and churches spread across the country and connecting across the branches of our faith community. We are so grateful for our current partners in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Portland, Boston and Minneapolis/St. Paul and for the interest and enthusiasm we have heard from other places. At this time, we are open to considering future locations but we will no longer be soliciting statement of interest proposals on a formal schedule. We invite any person or meeting/church that is interested in a conversation with QVS about possible expansion to your location to be in touch with Executive Director, Hilary Burgin (hilary (at)
Applying to QVS
When do you accept applications?
We accept applications beginning in November for the following service year. For priority consideration, please have your application in by February 28th. If you missed this deadline, you can still apply but you may be placed on the waiting list. If you have any questions, please email us at [email protected]
Should I apply?
An ideal candidate is someone who has an intrinsic commitment to participation in the movement toward a more just and equitable world, but has yet to discern the exact way that their particular skills and passions will be put to use, or the specific issues they want to dedicate their time and energy towards. This allows the year to be one of experimentation, listening deeply to yourself and others as you inevitably grow into the person you hope to become.
QVS welcomes applications from young adults who are at least 21 years old, who are self-motivated, and able to function highly within a professional work setting and in the everyday relationships of a shared house. Fellows should want to grow in the areas of spirituality, justice, community, simplicity, and sustainability. Fellows often find themselves in new and unexpected situations, so flexibility, openness, and a sense of humor are essential. QVS does not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, race, creed, culture, disability, economic class, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Further, we actively encourage people of color, LGBTQ-identified people, folks from diverse theological and economic backgrounds to apply.
How do I apply?
You will need to fill out our online application at: https://www.quakervoluntaryservice.org/apply/ The application includes several short essays and three references. Please remember to ask your references to submit their references before the February 28th deadline.
Do I have to be a Quaker?
No. QVS is open to persons from all traditions and there are always participants from non-Quaker backgrounds.
Quakerism is an experiential path. There is no dogma or creed. However, like other contemplative traditions, there are practices that Friends have found help cultivate a rich inner-life of compassion and wisdom. We hope that your year, in conversation with these spiritual practices, will help you better attend to the source in which we “live, and move, and have our being,” a source that can serve as solid ground for a well-lived life dedicated to service and justice, regardless of your religious identity or non-identity. In short, will will ask you to “try on” the Quaker way for the QVS year.
Do I have to be a college graduate?
No. While some of our site placement agencies will give preference to college graduates, it is not a QVS requirement.
Do you accept international applicants?
Recent changes in immigration policy have made it difficult for our international Fellows to complete their commitment to QVS. Unfortunately, we can only accept international applicants who can secure a visa that will allow them to participate in the full 11 months of the program, September through July (typically an OPT or B-1). Please note that if you intend to pursue a graduate degree or other similar program in the US after QVS that the conditions of obtaining a visa for the following year may prevent you from completing the program. Please carefully consider your circumstances and future goals before applying, as early departures from the program can disrupt not just the work at your site placement, but also the house community you have built in QVS.
Prior to arriving for the QVS year, international Fellows must file for and receive an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), by filing Internal Revenue Service form W-7.
Check out this one-pager for more details.
I am not between the ages of 21-30. Can I still apply?
QVS was formed out of a clear leading to provide much needed opportunities and support for young adults, and for now that is our focus. There are many ways for Friends of other ages to be involved in our work, like helping us spread the word to local meetings, help with recruitment of young adults, donating, and collecting stories of Quaker service. Depending on where you are, you could also get involved in a Local Support Committee or become a Spiritual Nurturer. You can stay in touch and learn more about us by subscribing to our newsletter. Alternatively, the Catholic Volunteer Network provides a directory of service programs along with the ability to search for programs by age range, marital status and geographical area. You can look for opportunities at https://
I don't have a spiritual mentor or companion, because I'm not really part of a spiritual community. Can I still apply?
Why should I choose QVS over similar programs like Americorps or Teach for America?
Unlike programs such as Americorps or Teach for America, QVS attempts to train and sustain your whole person. While some Americorps positions do resemble the site placement work of a QVS position, they do not provide the structure for spiritual growth or intentional community that are integral to the QVS experience. QVS is not a “year off” to “give back,” it is a year of reflection and training to prepare you for a whole life committed to peace, justice and equality.
Part of this longer vision is recognition that any work within a non-profit position requires you to focus your time and energy on a single, narrow issue, while the QVS community and network connects you to a much larger segment of the whole movement working for peace, justice, and equality.
“After choosing between fellowship offers from QVS and Americorps NCCC, I accepted a position in QVS’s Boston house and am working at Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program. QVS offered me a fresher, more integrative fellowship experience. It’s not simply professional development: we’re wrestling with how to make a home, live into our unique senses of faith, and practice social justice even after the workday ends. QVS speaks to a multifaceted young adult life and a new kind of young urban professional.
Through QVS I have been able to experience co-creating a personalized intentional community with other young adults. QVS has given us a foundation of Quaker principles to design this community. We’ve also been given the autonomy of merging our ideas, life experiences, and Boston’s local realities to create a community that works for all of us.” -Andrew Huff, 2015-16 Boston Fellow
How is my site placement determined?
QVS Fellows will work full time in community based social service and social change organizations. To see a full list of the organizations by issue that we are working with in each of our cities, please see our page Sites by Area of Interest.
After you are preliminarily accepted to QVS in one of our five cities, you will rank your top work site placements in that location. You will then have the opportunity to interview directly with two or three of them. We then ask for feedback from those interviews from both applicants and sites, and engage in a matching process from there. Assuming you interview well and are accepted by one of these organizations, you will be asked to commit to QVS for the full 11-months.
What is the application timeline/process?
(This is our intended timeline though it is subject to change, we will keep you updated of any changes)
- March 15: QVS Fellow applications and references due.
- March 28: QVS Staff completes a thorough review of all applications. All applicants will be notified of the results. Those applicants not selected for the first round of interviews are encouraged to apply again in the coming QVS year.
- March 28-April 15: The first round of interviews is between selected applicants and QVS Staff. Staff will discern which applicants are best qualified for the program and invited them to a second round of interviews. Applicants not selected for the second round of interviews are encouraged to apply again in the coming QVS year.
- April 19-May 3: The second round of interviews is between applicants and potential site placements. Each applicant will interview with several potential site placements.
- No later than May 4: After completing the second round of interviews, applicants rank potential site placements in order of preference. Site placements will also rank applicants in order of preference.
- Around May 9: QVS Staff completes their review of feedback from sites and applicants. Staff will discern how to match applicants with potential site placements. Applicants selected for a match will be offered a Fellowship. Other qualified applicants are placed on a wait list.
- No later than May 14: Deadline for matched applicants to accept a QVS Fellowship offer.
- May 15-25th: Wait-listed applicants may be contacted if a spot becomes available. If offered a QVS Fellowship, wait-listed applicants must commit within five days of receiving the offer. Wait-listed applicants who aren’t offered a Fellowship are encouraged to reapply in the coming QVS year.
- By May 25: Fellows, site placements, and QVS sign contracts.
- August 26-30th: National Orientation at Pendle Hill.
Is it possible to gain early acceptance into QVS?
I’m interested in QVS, but need to decide between opportunities with different application deadlines.
Thanks for your interest in QVS! After initial interviews with QVS staff, applicants will need to interview with potential site placements. The full process takes time, but we want to make sure that the match between Fellows and site placements is a good fit for everyone. Although we’re unable to offer early admission, please tell QVS staff about other deadlines so we can best support you in your discernment process. We are also unable to defer acceptance from year to year.
Can I start QVS later than August or end my involvement earlier than July?
Fellows are required to attend National Orientation in late August. This inaugural event and the work you will do to build community over the first few months are essential to the goals of QVS. It’s important to know that leaving early could be detrimental to the site placement where you work and negatively impact the network of relationships in the community of Fellows. If you are applying to grad school or pursuing another opportunity that may require your early departure from QVS, please communicate with your local Coordinator as soon as possible.
What to expect during a QVS year
What will the QVS experience be like?
The goal of a QVS year is to see what life can become when contemplative spirituality, social justice, and deep community are combined in an individual’s life. This year will ask a lot of you, but while QVS can provide the basic framework for your journey, ultimately the experience is what you make of it. Come ready to go all in.
Take a moment to watch one of our "A Day in the Life of a QVS Fellow" videos.
Here’s the perspective from QVS alumna Becca Bass-
“There is a Nelson Mandela quote I recently read that really resonated with me, and reminded me of what the decision to do QVS represents to me: “May your choices reflect your hopes and not your fears.” No matter what happens in your QVS year, as long as you are seeking something from the experience—as long as you are taking the risk of desiring something meaningful—you will learn and grow and clarify what it is you hope for, and how, and why. The QVS year is also a time of unusual support, unusual access to communities of people who are grappling with similar questions about what it means to live a purposeful life, unusual flexibility to learn about different kinds of service work, and unusual space in which to ask the questions that will continue to inform the way you live. You sure won’t leave with answers to all your questions, but you’ll leave with a more useful set of questions around which to build your life. The QVS year wasn’t easy or always comfortable, but I’m grateful every day for the way it has helped me identify, process, and pursue the things I care about with a community of people I care about.”
What will I learn?
At the heart of the year is a deep emphasis on reflection. In regular one-on-one meetings with a spiritual nurturer, in a structured group setting with other Fellows, and in many informal ways, you will find both the space and the supportive context to engage difficult questions that arise through your work and life together. Particular attention will be given in these exercises and relationships to places of stretching or challenge as your spiritual understanding shifts and deepens to engage the injustice, inequality, privilege, and suffering that is an inevitable part of work for social justice and to learn skills to sustain you on this journey for the long haul. Through work and reflection, learning to listen to the guiding voice of your Inner-teacher, you will be led into a life marked by courage and creativity, responding to the movement of love and wisdom.
What is the QVS house community like?
As a Fellow, you will share living space, meals, care for the home, and all aspects of day to day life. In many cases, you will be asked to share a room with another Fellow. QVS house communities live simply but abundantly. Together, you will construct a “community covenant” – an agreement guiding interactions in the house. You will worship together as a house and make decisions about the house using Friends decision making practices (a non-voting process similar, but distinct from consensus). Learning to live together, you will be challenged in small ways to practice patience, kindness, cooperation, and model equality and reciprocity in everyday interactions.
What is the experience with local Quakers like?
QVS is in partnership with local Quaker meetings in all of our cities, which you are asked to participate in as you can. Additionally, each Fellow is partnered with one “Spiritual Nurturer,” a one-on-one mentoring and listening relationship. There is also a local support committee made up of volunteers and alumni who provide support, hospitality, grounding and fellowship, and can connect you to the many things going on in your city.
What if I'm considering going to graduate school?
A program like QVS is a wonderful opportunity to take some time to learn more about your passions, skills, and goals. Often, QVS Fellows discern an educational or vocational pathway forward based on their work, community, or spiritual experiences and explorations during the QVS year.
Sometimes QVS Fellows are actively applying to a graduate program during their QVS year. While we support these next steps, it is also important that Fellows be fully present to the experience understand that the QVS year is very full and busy, and applying to graduate school can take up a lot of time. Please feel free to talk more about this with QVS staff so that we can help you discern whether this is the right time for you to consider QVS.
Additionally, if you are interested in theological education, after you complete a year of service with QVS, you will be eligible for a full tuition scholarship to Earlham School of Religion. Find more information here.
Are there any vacations or breaks during the QVS year?
In addition to holidays recognized by your site placement, all QVS Fellows and staff will have two days off at Thanksgiving, five days off around Christmas, and an additional six vacation days to be worked out directly with your site placement agency. Additionally, you will receive two professional development days to attend Quaker conferences during the year and, in some cases, a day or two to return to your alma mater for outreach and recruitment.
How does the money work?
You will receive housing in a fully furnished shared home, utilities, internet, support for health and wellness, including access to health insurance and mental health support, a shared grocery and food allowance, which can also be used for over-the-counter medication and toiletry items, a public transit pass, and an additional stipend of $125 a month for personal use. Upon successful completion of the QVS year you will receive an exit stipend. QVS also provides educational opportunities and paid attendance to some conferences throughout the year. Local Quakers have agreed to help provide used household items to the house as requested. You will be responsible for your own cell phone bill should you choose to have one.
We know that the cost of transportation to national orientation may be a barrier for many. Our organization is continuously growing in our class-consciousness and is therefore offering to reimburse Fellows’ travel costs to National Orientation.
Read more about our Equity initiatives which expand the financial support we are able to offer fellows from various class backgrounds.
Do I have to raise any money?
Does QVS pay for travel to and from the program?
We ask that all Fellows (regardless of city or country of origin) make arrangements for and pay for travel to our national orientation in Philadelphia in September Following orientation, however, we know that the cost of transportation to orientation may be a barrier for many. Our organization is continuously growing in our class-consciousness and is therefore offering to reimburse Fellows’ travel costs to National Orientation.
QVS pays for the flight/travel (including two checked bags) from Philadelphia back to the assigned QVS city. At the end of the year, Fellows who complete the program receive an exit stipend to use at their discretion (travel back to their home city, apartment deposits, etc.), but we do not pay for travel after the program ends in July.
How is the education structured?
Every other Friday you do not work at your service site but instead will spend that day with the other QVS Fellows, staff, and local supporters; we call those days QVS Days. On those days you will engage in a variety of activities including discussing shared readings, visiting local sites of interest, learning from outside resource people and facilitators, and exploring your city. For much of the year, these days will be planned and led by you and your other Fellows based on your needs and interests, with support from staff.
Additionally, you will attend a week-long orientation with all QVS Fellows from across the country, a mid year retreat and a closing retreat. There will also be opportunities throughout the year for you to participate in related events and conferences such as Friends Committee on National Legislation’s lobby training's and Pendle Hill’s Young Adult Friends Conference.
Does QVS provide support for my student loans?
Yes. QVS staff will provide you with student loan counseling, with a focus on applying for income based repayment. If your loans are Federal Student loans, you will most likely be able to pay nothing, with little to no interest accrual, even while having the year count towards public service loan forgiveness. QVS' goal is to, at a minimum, ensure that you do not leave the program with more student loan debt than you began the year with. QVS can provide financial support for loan interest cost accrued during your service year, and in some cases may be able to assist with principal payments (based on need and availability of funds). Please let us know as soon as you are accepted if this is something you will need help with, and we will provide more information.