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Service Learning

The central task of numerous social, political, religious, and other organizations is to meet the needs and provide welfare to all citizens. In order to make people aware of possibilities to support other society members, contribute to its welfare, and be helpful to people in need, it is essential to bring the information about social services and about the problems the nation can face. Social inclusion of the young generation is an inherent part of the national upbringing and development. Teaching person’s role and responsibilities in the society as well as inculcating the feeling of duty, justice, and importance of being helpful and supportive are essential for the democratic society formation and maintenance. This is the aim of the course of social learning, which is taught in numerous educational establishments of the US. It is important to highlight that it lets students not only learn the theoretical issues of theological and social ideas offered by numerous scientists, but also to contribute to the welfare of the entire nation on practice. Having attended the social learning course and 10 hours of service programs in St. LouisCounty, it is essential to emphasize that the organization of social works was influenced much by numerous theological ideas supported by feministic leaders, whose works were regarded through the study course. The fact of the racial and sexual equality is noticeable among social workers (Dewane 38). Consequently, it is essential to point out the prevalence of female social workers and the influence of views and ideas of such feministic theologists as Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, Mary Daly, and Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza on the foundation, work, and basic principles of social organizations.

The unique experience of volunteerism for St. Louis Area Foodbank and Feeding America and St. Louis County Department of Health helped me better understand moral and civic background of readings, to which we referred in class. The Saint Louis County Department of Health is a social organization, which is aimed to help people to solve their health problems. Its mission is to create and develop policies and programs, which would prevent the illnesses and improve health of the nation. My help service for the Saint Louis County Department of Health took 2 hours. Volunteers for this organization were needed on April 19th from 8am-4pm; training was held on April 15th from 3-5pm. The work I did for them as a volunteer included providing help with data input and taking notes on computer for a Local Public Health Assessment. It is important to point out that, in contrast to the Catholic religious organizations, where women are not allowed to occupy dominating church positions, the director of Saint Louis County Department of Health is an Afro-American woman Dolores J. Gunn. This fact proves that racial and sexist prejudices are not prevalent this organization. Moreover, the workers belong to different races and treat each other with tolerance.

The St. Louis Area Foodbank and Feeding America is the second social organization, where I did 8 hours of communal services work. Since the mission of this organization is to donate food to those who are in need, it is important to highlight that the main aim of this service was to learn generosity and compassion. Volunteers were needed in the beginning April; days and times could vary up to my schedule. My task as of the volunteer was to assist with the 2014 Hunger in America survey. I interviewed families from Missouri and Illinois, who received food assistance and in such way, contributed to invaluable research on local and national hunger issues. Being aware of problems of people and witnessing issues by yourself is quite effective for encouraging people to become more generous, sensible, and willing to take care about the problems of others. The findings of a research have shown the obvious social inequality. However, it is very important that there exist organizations and people, who are determined to fight it. Although the executive director of St. Louis Area Foodbank is a man named Frank Finnegan, the number of women, who work for this organization is quite high.

Although the organizations mentioned above are non-religious, it is significant that the role of women in their creation, work, and success is very important as it is known that creation of such social organizations is a result of women’s activism, who fight for gender, racial, and social equality. The working staff, which is formed regardless of racial or sex affiliation, can be defined as the first proof of their effectiveness. As it was mentioned above, these organizations are social and not religious, but theological and social backgrounds for the welfare of the nation have much in common.

Firstly, moral and ethical values offered by the church and values of such organizations are based on the principles of kindness, generosity, fairness, and respect towards others. Consequently, from theological perspective, the notions of social and religious sin are similar and the appropriate behavior of people is described in the Bible. However, it is important that the equality, which is another central theological principle, is defined as a racial equality according to the idea of liberal theology, and is supported by both social and religious organizations. At the same time, the Catholic Church obviously neglects all feministic attempts aimed at achieving gender equality. The same difference is about the issue of democracy, which is fairly implemented among social workers, but neglected by the Catholic Church in relation to women. Nevertheless, it is obvious that theology cannot be disconnected from the ordinary life as it studies and predetermines many of its main principles. Therefore, theology and social work are closely interrelated. Hence, it is important to point out feministic theological concepts as leading principles and backgrounds, which define the work of organizations.

Despite the fact that feminist theological theories were offered decades ago, it is of great importance to refer to problems such as sexism and racism described in these theories, which stay relevant for the contemporary society. Ethical and moral values of people are extremely important to improve the level of people’s life and the atmosphere of the society. Striving for social justice and equality has been a relevant issue for many centuries. For instance, the Mujerista Theology praised the role of women in the ordinary life, and it is significant to point out that many female volunteers, whom I met were women. Although the Catholic church does not let female representatives into religious organizations, their work and help by social ones is irreplaceable. Although the struggle for church acceptance was not effective, her ideas were considered by the founders of non-religious social organizations. Therefore, it is possible to state that the sincerity and liberal spirit of Isasi-Díaz was heard by people. As she believed that women represent the group of people, who exercise morality more profoundly than any other group or community, it is important to consider their work in organizations and their soft and kind attitude to the poor (Isasi-Diaz 560). Moreover, it is essential to emphasize women’s gift to bring hope to people’s souls. Therefore, small everyday choices were regarded as definitive for moral power, which women possess. Since such small things usually are important for creating a background of greater ones, Isasi-Diaz tended to show that the church cannot ignore these women’s efforts. In order to gain social equality and justice, one should consider the experience, which has been observed in everyday life, and not only the one, which has been described in the Bible.

Another important fact, which was stated by Isassi-Diaz and proved by the experience obtained during volunteering is that concepts of just society should be based on the everyday life and on the problems, which are common for the biggest part of the population. Therefore, it becomes obvious that the basis of social organizations and social learning are every-day problems of hunger and availability of food, which are vitally important for each person, but are not available to everyone. Therefore, such moral values as fairness, compassion, and kindness are to become the main for the democratic and liberal society. Furthermore, the division of theology into two parts: the reflection and the action, is of great importance. Referring to this fact, it is possible to state that stage of reflection was the period, when Isasi-Diaz, Daly, Fiorenza, and others have written their feministic theories. Afterwards, the stage of action – the foundation of numerous social organizations has come. Consequently, as these organizations work successfully, it acknowledges that experiences and academic preparedness of the community members are outstanding qualities, which are important for resolving various dilemmas and help separate their religious understanding from sentiments (Isasi-Diaz 104).

Two other figures, who in my opinion deserve attention, are Daly, Fiorenza. Their work on the Bible passages rendering is exceptionally effective by passing the ideas of gender equality to deeply religious people. They argued about the predominate patriarchal nature of the Bible and analyzed passages showing the description of the everyday role of women (Fiorenza 55). Consequently, the sideline should also bring an important message to the readers. According to such view, the position of women in the society is not just, the same as the position in the Catholic Church. According to their views, similar to Isasi-Diaz’s ones, ordinary daily chores and struggling against the everyday problems fill women with special moral power, which is extremely important to help others (Daly 30).

Feministic ideas are aimed to liberate people from all injustices and provide numerous fair and welfare-oriented changes in the society. As it was mentioned by feministic theologists, the main criteria for defining the leader of any organization are not his or her gender or racial affiliation, but the academic education. Such personal characteristics as moral strength, fairness, wisdom, ability to manage workers or business is also not dependent on person’s gender. The experience of working as a volunteer in the above mentioned social organization have shown the ideas of feminist theologists Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, Mary Daly, Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza on the real-life example. Therefore, social organizations founded by women can be regarded as an action step after the theoretical one, which was mentioned by Isasi’Diaz.

To sum it up, I can state that 10 hours of service program work have contributed much not only to my understanding of the social learning course and integrating practical experience with the theoretical perspectives, but also influenced my views and basic human values. As inequality and prejudices are common for the American society, it is highly important to get rid of them and develop the adequate ethical and moral values among the representatives of the nation. Putting people on just places in society is the key step to contribute to the welfare of the nation. To sum it up, the ideas of feministic theologists contribute to the image of a just society and to the foundation of numerous welfare-oriented social organizations, which are based on the principles of justice and equality, have the working staff of different nationalities and lack class analysis ethnic and racial prejudice. Providing help to the poor and considering daily needs of citizens are the important ideas of feminists, which have pushed people to the idea to create hunger and health-oriented organizations. Therefore, female gender does not make the role of women and their decisions less important or less influential than those of males. The main personal characteristics, which are important to the charity work are even more specific for women than for men, which results in the higher number of women among social workers. People of the lower economic stratum should not be exploited and repressed. They need help as it is in the human nature to be compassionate, generous, and kind to others. The female gender or social position should not become a reason for Catholic Church representatives or any other people to make decisions or treat someone unfairly. Not only those who pray believe in God are equal, all people were born equal.

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