Josh Hummel

AmeriCorps

Have you ever wanted to hear more about some of the activities our young adults are involved in?  I talked to Josh Hummel to find out about what he has been up to.

Josh began an interesting assignment with AmeriCorps in July 2016, ending in June 2017.  His assignment was to work with FEMA.  Josh explained, “There are two branches of FEMA: the traditional, labor-oriented FEMA (fighting fires and floods, etc.) and the technology-based piece of FEMA (assessing damage, estimating cost, writing grants).”  Josh was assigned to the latter.

Josh explained some of his assignments in this way, “If a bridge would go out, we would assess the damage, take measurements, and recommend repair or replacement.”

During his time with FEMA, there was flooding in Louisiana, so this is where Josh and his team were sent.  At this assignment, he would go door to door to reach people affected by the flooding.  He would find out if people were in need of assistance.  He would input their information into a computer and determine eligibility for services.

The team relocated from Louisiana to Charleston, South Carolina, when Hurricane Matthew came through.  There, Josh’s tasks involved “surveying beaches, water pumps, sewer ways, taking measurements, and estimating costs for repair (a rough estimate), and getting funding for repairs.”

Josh was on a team of other volunteers, about eight people.  They were somewhat mobile as they had to go to where the disasters were occurring and never really stayed in one place for long.  Sometimes their accommodations were dorm rooms.  They each received a stipend for food
and expenses.

The part of this program that Josh really liked were the “friendships and travel.”  He enjoyed going directly to “affected areas, where people are, and helping them, making a difference, having an effect on the community.”  Being out in the community in this way was much more interesting to Josh than being stationed in the field office.

Josh is thinking about participating in this program again at some point.  He would like to do the more traditional FEMA work next time so he could be involved in more physical activity, which he prefers.  He likes, “being out and doing things.”

Josh’s adventures did not stop when he finished his FEMA assignment in June 2017.  He was offered a chance to go to China, live with a family friend, and be a classroom assistant helping Chinese children to learn English.  Josh jumped at the chance because he really likes, “cultural exposure; seeing new things, places, and people.”  He also was interested in seeing how he liked teaching.  Josh began his adventure in China in September 2017 and is still there.  The latest news is that Josh was promoted to full-time teaching in a Chinese classroom.  This will really give him a chance to see how teaching suits him. At some point, we will see Josh back at the Meeting House, when he returns from his adventures.  I’m sure he will have some interesting stories and pictures to share.

Sara Hernon-Reeves

sarah h-r.jpg

A Year with Quest

WHAT IS QUEST?
QUEST is a program that offers an intentional living community opportunity, free room and board, a small monthly stipend, a job in a social service field, and an opportunity to live into Quaker values such as simplicity (trying to live on a lower wage).

QUEST not only admits Quakers to their program, but also admits people who are interested in learning about Quakerism. Sara explained, “I was the only Quaker in the program”, meaning she became the go-to person for her housemates when they had questions about Quakerism.

QUEST participants were encouraged to feel a part of the Quaker community in the Pacific Northwest by attending yearly and quarterly meetings and by going to the Friends Meeting that was affiliated with QUEST. Sara did note, “I wanted to go [to these meetings] but I was often so busy with work.”
Another piece of the QUEST program was that people from the broader Quaker community would lead topics once monthly for QUEST participants. These included such subjects as learning the history of Quakerism and learning about Quaker SPICES (Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, Stewardship).

INTENTIONAL COMMUNITY
During her year in QUEST, Sara shared a house with five other QUEST participants. The household shared home management tasks such as weekly chores, budgeting, and grocery-shopping. They would eat at least one meal a week together. This could be “complicated – meeting everybody’s dietary needs,” she explained. House meetings were regularly scheduled as a time to check in on what was going well in the house, and to problem-solve if issues came up. Sara enjoyed the other participants in the program and those friendships have continued.

SARA’S JOB WHILE IN QUEST
During her time with QUEST, Sara worked at Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, an agency working to end homelessness through policy. First, Sara worked as a Voter Engagement organizer. Sara trained and led people to do phone banking and door knocking to assist in electing state candidates for office who were endorsed by Washington Low Income Housing Alliance. These candidates were called, “Housing Champions.”

Following the election in November 2017, Sara began working on the Resident Action project, also through Washington Low Income Housing Alliance. Sara participated in a listening tour with people in low income apartments and public housing to find out what their challenges were. Sara would report findings back to the policy staff who would then come up with an agenda for the legislative session.

Sara also worked on training people in community organizing; helping people find their voice. This job involved “a lot of relationship-building, understanding group dynamics, and constant communication. It challenged me to be a better listener and communicator.” Sara noted that this also job required a big emotional investment as it involved listening to life stories about challenges people faced with housing and then trying to get these people interested in doing the work with the Housing Alliance, for change.

Sara said the community organizing job taught her that “it’s okay if people can’t stick around to do the work – but keep the doors open – it might evolve into something different.” She also noted, “I do like talking to people” as part of her work tasks.

SARA REFLECTS ON HER EXPERIENCE
Reflecting on her experience, Sara said, “I loved it. I had never lived on the west coast before, and this was a chance to explore a new place and meet new people.” She enjoyed the Pacific Northwest location, but there were about seven months of cloudiness/rain. The bus system in Seattle was great and public transportation is promoted. A drawback is how expensive the city is to live in.

Sara noted that she learned she does enjoy meeting and talking to people and found the Resident Action project to be the most fulfilling of her work assignments. Sara said she was exposed to issues through her work: “because of tech companies, the city has grown in the past 10 years and now we see the number of homeless people skyrocket. Something big in the state needs to change or we will keep making homes for gigantic worldwide organizations instead of for people. People are getting out. The legislature is not taking it seriously.”

Sara said, “I did grow as a person and with questioning more my role in society. I have more questions to figure out; am I doing enough to create a more just society? This is hard to truly answer.” She continued, “Social justice – justice in general – will be a necessary component in whatever I do.”

INTERESTED IN QUEST?
Sara would recommend the QUEST program to others. To be eligible for QUEST, one does not need to have a college education, but some type of experience is necessary. One does have to be 20 years old or older. It is important to be able to live in intentional community, for instance to be able to handle arguments, and to live with other people around all the time. One needs to be professional in the interview. Initially there is a QUEST interview with the QUEST director, and then a site interview with the director of the job one is identified for. Some of the sites other QUEST participants worked at were: REACH (a case-management program for people who were homeless and drug and alcohol addicted), an Immigration law firm, A permanent housing apartment for previously homeless senior men, and Friends of the Children (a program that assisted children who were struggling in school).