QuEST has had a busy fall, as the 25th cohort of Fellows have settled into their new work and community. Let’s look back at some of the highlights:

None of the six new Fellows had ever been to Seattle before joining the QuEST program! They arrived at the end of August for several days of orientation with Promise Partner, Program Director, before starting work at their agencies. These days were an exciting series of activities, including team building and group discussion, exploring the city, and choosing rooms and unpacking in the house. Maggie, Mary, Divya, Keren, Toetie, and Lara discussed their perspectives on the program themes of community, simplicity, social justice, and spirituality; learned about Quakerism by participating in worship sharing; got tips about the quirks of their 111-year-old house; used the Enneagram as a framework to explore what motivates them and what they need from each other in community; and ate Thai food on the Ave and peroshkis at Pike Place Market.

Four of the six Fellows traveled to at Lazy F Camp in Ellensburg, Washington in late September to participate in the Pacific Northwest Quarterly Meeting, a regional gathering of Quakers. This relaxed weekend was an opportunity for informal conversation with the greater community who supports our program. They were renewed by hiking, singing, rest and reflection, the beautiful landscape, and friendly conversation with all kinds of Quakers. The group also got to know University Friends, our sponsoring Quaker meeting, by attending Meeting for Worship and a welcoming potluck in early October.

Monthly QuEST Time trainings have allowed the group to get to know the city and its residents and to discuss important topics connected to their own identity and activism.  

In September, we visited the Duwamish Longhouse, the cultural center of the native people of the Seattle area. We were warmly welcomed by Linda Dombrowski, Events Coordinator, and Blake Shelafoe, storyteller and cultural educator. Through their open-hearted sharing, we heard about the importance of the Duwamish River, about longhouses, the canoe journey, and potlatches. Blake told us the story of lifting the sky, drummed and sang, and led us in dancing together. The gathering helped root us in the native culture of the land we live on, giving important context for our work in service and for justice.

Our focus in October was on class and how class cultures affect activist work; we used the Activist Class Cultures Kit for reflection and discussion. We don’t often talk openly about class, but this part of our identity contributes to different group habits, norms, perspectives, and ways of talking and acting. Our discussion made these more transparent, so the Fellows can better collaborate across class backgrounds to build stronger movements, among themselves and in their agencies.

For QuEST Time in November, we went to the Public Defender Association for a panel by VOCAL – WA, community organizers who are low- and no- income people directly affected by the war on drugs, homelessness, and mass incarceration. Sydney, Terena, and Sharon shared their personal stories and their work as advocates, activists, and mentors to others. VOCAL’s main campaign is to establish safe consumption spaces where people with drug addictions can safely use drugs with clean supplies and under the supervision of health care workers. This harm reduction strategy has proved successful in other cities; it would reduce overdose, improve the lives of people who use drugs and give them access to resources for recovery when they are ready — creating safer and healthier communities for everyone.

Upcoming events include QuEST Time trainings on Financial Literacy, Facilitation Skills, and Communication in Community, and a weekend retreat in February on Discernment. Stay tuned — here and on Facebook — to learn more about what we’re doing!