Photo: Alissa (she/they) and Kate (she/her) in front of a lake in Promised Land Park in Greentown, PA where they went on their final QVS retreat.
They are the authors of this Epistle

_____________________

      This was a difficult year for the Philadelphia house; we started the year with seven fellows and have ended with only two. Our house has diminished, and it’s a difficult task to sum up a year without people who were a huge part of it present, so we are attempting to speak for ourselves and not others.

Alissa came to QVS directly from Haverford College, excited to see more of the city that COVID had limited her enjoyment of. She has lived in about six different states, but came to Pennsylvania from Wisconsin, where she is still a member of Eau Claire Monthly Meeting. QVS felt like the next logical step in a life where Quaker meeting has been one of the few constants across geography. Kate came to QVS from her third summer working at Opequon Quaker camp, one of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting summer camps that have nurtured her relationship with Quakerism for many years. She grew up in Rockville, Maryland and attended Sandy Spring Friends Meeting, but a stint of living in southern California while attending Scripps College reminded her of all the great things living closer to home had to offer. 

After an exciting and fun National Orientation, the fall was a period of us settling in and making friends with each other. We played lots of word games together, cheered on Philly sports teams, had many lovely communal dinners, and ate lots of banana muffins. Alissa found joy through choir and dance in the city, and Kate had a great time developing relationships with the kids she saw every week in school libraries. We all found both frustration and excitement in learning our new roles at site placements. We enjoyed getting to know each other’s friends and loved ones with visits from near and far. Throughout our fall and winter we learned about setting boundaries, communicating our needs, and balancing conflicting needs. All of this was done while supporting several fellows through the grief of losing loved ones, an undercurrent that continued through the year. 

Returning from winter break, we discovered new challenges and joys. Kate and Alissa experienced some shifts of responsibilities at work, while house worship and meals continued to be difficult to schedule but very enjoyable. Birthdays in the late winter and early spring brought celebration and wider community into the house. Unfortunately, February was a month of challenges, with COVID and underlying tensions brought to the forefront. At the end of March, three fellows left us, two of whom remained close by.

As spring sprung, the house relaxed and eased into deeper community, enjoying the sunshine and warmth. It offered us an opportunity for renewal of community and commitment to each other and ourselves. Fellow-led QVS days gave us much better insight into each other’s day-to-day work lives and demonstrated the breadth of work nonprofits do. Kate experienced a lot of joy spending more time working outdoors at Historic Fair Hill, learning a lot about gardening, spending time in nature every day, and meeting four adorable kittens that were born in the compost pile. Alissa enjoyed MANNA’s food-themed spring events, eating a lot of guacamole and taking many pictures. We both felt a lot of joy in helping others through our service work. Unfortunately, two fellows left in the last month of the program to pursue other opportunities, but four of the original seven have continued on with our site placements, and we’ve all remained in Philadelphia, the city of Quakerly love. We are grateful to our coordinator, spiritual nurturers, and local support committee for what they’ve done this year.

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