QVA: OUR STORY… a brief history (please scroll down to view past programmes)
Quaker Voluntary Action began life in 1999 in response to the decision by Britain Yearly Meeting (the national Quaker body in the UK) to bring to an end the work of Quaker International Social Projects (QISP), successor to Quaker Workcamps.
For more than 50 years, Quakers had operated short-term, international workcamps in environmental work, construction, renovation and social projects. This was to finish when the work of QISP was wound up (‘laid down’ in Quaker speak).
Many Friends first came into contact with Quakers through volunteering on or hearing about workcamps. Volunteering on a Quaker project provided Young Friends in particular (and prospective Friends) from different countries, an opportunity to meet up, work together and develop lasting friendships and mutual support.
As we approached the new Millennium, some Friends had a concern that Quakers’ contribution in the field of volunteering at an organisational level might be lost without a body to promote and support it. They acknowledged the value of volunteering, to individuals, to communities and also to The Religious Society of Friends itself. Rather than reducing this opportunity, these Friends wished to extend it and to develop good quality volunteering projects.
In addition, they wanted to offer support to those Friends across Europe who wished to put their faith into action in response to specific community needs, but where for various reasons, including perhaps a lack of financial resources or time, small or ageing meetings, or being geographically isolated, they were unable to develop Quaker volunteering initiatives independently.
In 2000, when other faith groups were developing their volunteering, when the UK government was encouraging community building through new volunteering initiatives and the UN was promoting 2001 as the International Year of Volunteering, it seemed the right time for Quakers to explore again new ways of volunteering.
A committee was formed to take ideas forward for a new organisation: one that would take Quaker volunteering into the 21st century – QVA was born!
Since its formation QVA has been involved in a variety of projects and initiatives:
- workcamps in the UK and Ireland
- support for a succession of volunteers at the New Barracks project in Salford, UK
- researching and piloting the Agents for Change Project
- organising a “plant a tree” campaign for the Tent of Nations project in Palestine
- recruiting volunteers to work on a reconstruction project in Sri Lanka after the tsunami
- finding volunteer opportunities for a number of individuals
- conceiving the idea and developing the Working Retreats programme
Our Working Retreats programme was established in 2008 and continues to broaden it’s scope reaching out to Quakers and others in the UK, Europe and beyond. You can look back on the variety of projects we have run, and read about them from articles by participants, here in our archive of Programmes and selection of Newsletters: