In 2019, PYM’s Travel and Witness granting group awarded Jan and John Schmidt, members of Raleigh Monthly Meeting, a grant for travel to Wellington, New Zealand. Jan and John would be staying there under the care of the Wellington Friends Meeting as Volunteer Resident Religious Worker (the official term for their status).
Travel and Witness’ international outreach funds are available to people engaged in promotion of international understanding, justice and peace through travel. Quakers within and outside of PYM may apply. Now in their second year in New Zealand, Jan and John joined Travel and Witness’ quarterly meeting in June 2021 to share their experience. The granting group recorder took wonderful minutes of Jan and John’s account, shared below.
Jan and John Schmidt’s Time in Wellington
“Jan and John Schmidt joined the meeting via Zoom from Wellington, New Zealand Meeting House, and then “walked” the group over to their Friends-in-Residence apartment.
They shared the enthusiastic welcome they had received from New Zealand Friends and from the people of Wellington. Before the restrictions of COVID were put in place they had already been approved to stay for a second year so now they are approved for their third year, which begins in 2022, and very happy to be where they are.
They have attended two Friends Summer Gatherings, one on Kindness and one on Regenerative Living. Local Friends meet for a walk once a week. The Meeting holds a mid-week Meeting for Worship with Jan creating homemade soup. After Sunday Meetings for Worship, they hold business sessions, discuss Quaker issues, community engagement and children’s meeting. They hold a game night and a movie night which they advertise in their local newspaper.
The Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand (YMANZ) is the only YM in NZ and composed of unprogrammed Meetings. It finds itself facing the issue of an aging membership. A Young Adult Friend has spent 6 months studying the issue and has shared changes that need to be made. It was suggested that she be sent to the UK and US with a grant to visit with YAFs. There are courses online offered by Woodbrooke Quaker Study Center in Birmingham, UK in partnership with the Asia West Pacific Section of the Friends World Committee for Consultation.
They spent a week with Junior Young Friends on Waiheke Island at the Quaker Meeting and Guesthouse doing community volunteer activities, and learning and doing Quaker practice. The YMANZ supports a Young Friend in climate and environment issues work. (New Zealand is undertaking a 500-year plan to bring back the land to what it was before the invasive species of animals and plants were introduced.) YMANZ supports issues of decolonization, treaty rights and provided resources for a Young Friend who was developing a Maori language game.
They are also involved in community activities including Age Concerns where volunteers are companion walkers for the elderly and disabled; the advocacy organization Child Poverty Action Group, the Wellington Interfaith Council and Gun Control New Zealand, started following the Christchurch Mosque massacre.
One example of ANZ Quaker history that they learned about involved a project that spanned centuries. In the 1870’s, the London Yearly Meeting had funded a Quaker women in NZ to visit Quakers across NZ, because of their isolation. Then in 2020, the British Yearly Meeting funded an Anglican Minister to research this Quaker women and to then follow her journey across NZ, an arduous journey in the 1870s and still somewhat arduous today.
Jan and John have not only learned what New Zealand Friends and friends are doing but have also served as links back to Friends in the US and shared US Friends activities with Friends in Wellington. It has clearly been a deeply enriching experience for all concerned.
Jan and John thanked the granting group for the grant and explained that once planes start flying again after the COVID restrictions are lifted, the returning airfares are likely to be expensive.
Miyo [the Travel and Witness clerk] thanked the Jan and John for sharing so fully what the grant has enabled them to be a part of. The granting group was delighted to hear directly from participants who have clearly been able to bring many Friends and Friends concerns together with warmth and encouragement. It is rare to be able to have this direct in person reporting.”
Travel and Witness Granting Group
The Travel and Witness Granting Group (TWGG) provides grants to support active service and witness by individuals following leadings of the Spirit. Funds are available to members of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting traveling within the U.S. or abroad; to United States Quakers traveling abroad on Friends concerns; and to international travelers coming to the United States on Friends Concerns; and, in some cases, to organizations arranging or providing such travel. The next deadline to apply for a ‘TWGG’ grant is September 1, 2021. For further information or if you are interested in applying, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.