Sara Hernon-Reeves

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A Year with 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).

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.

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.

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.”

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).