Interviews by Grace Sharples Cooke, Associate Secretary for Advancement and Relationship
One of the joys of Annual Sessions is you never know who you will sit next to, but it’s often someone new and interesting. At dinner on our first evening, two Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) program assistants from New York, Evie McCullough and Grace Ishimwe, joined our table. Lively and thoughtful, they shared their work and enthusiasm.
Evie told us all about how QUNO offers two 13 month program assistant internships, and explained how these internships brought them to Sessions: “We came as part of QUNO’s outreach to Quaker populations in the States. They see that as a very important part of their work, and we’re here to have an opportunity to meet people so we can share QUNO’s work and share our own experiences as program assistants … So being a program assistant at QUNO has been great, it gives you an opportunity to get a taste of lots of different area of work…I’ve been in the prevention of violence program, which is still very much evolving. I did history and politics in my undergrad, so I think I view things from an historical lens, I would like to see more of history being looked at in all of these conflicts, so I’m going to go study some more history after this, which I’m very excited about.
Grace added, “I’m not Quaker, so I’m excited to be here, get to meet other Quakers in the larger community and see the different activities that are happening. I work currently on the peace building program and I think that I’m still really early in my career, but it seems like this is something that I actually want to continue to pursue. I hope to eventually go back to school and maybe get a PhD in conflict resolution and peace studies. So this year has been really great in orienting me to work on peace. I come form an international development background, which kind of talks about peace, but its something that’s mentioned as an afterthought. So, having that be the front and center to the work that’s being done at QUNO has been nice to know. To have organizations that are out that only are looking for making a difference in the world when it comes to peace building.”
Grace and Evie encourage any recent college graduates to look into applying to work at QUNO
On day one we welcomed the chance to catch up with Tenaja Henson, a vibrant, thoughtful, long-time Friend. She explained why she had come to Annual Sessions; “I’m here visiting and relearning the space. I’ve been involved with PYM for most of my life, and I’ve been a little absent, considering I’ve been away at college … at Guilford, in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“I’m here (now) because I created a workshop this past semester, and I am going to be presenting it tomorrow. I’m hoping to find some restoration, and some hope for the future of this world. There are so many scary things happening and it’s exciting to be in a community that wants to be working on it.”
“Well, we have been coming for I don’t know how many years, and it’s our community. We started going to Abington Meeting fifty years ago.” Charlie and Ruth live at the Pennswood Village retirement community–which they love, and Ruth says “I’ve stopped driving, and for the last five weeks our community has sent a car out to take us to (Abington) Meeting, and to take us back home. We’ll keep going to meeting that way until they run out of gas!”
Charlie and Ruth are here at sessions for what they think may be their last year, accompanied by their son Tom Peterson, who joins his parents with care and pleasure in their companionship.
Stay tuned for more interviews in a few days.