Meaningful Service

Meaningful Service

While it is obvious that a Service Learning program should involve service, it remains important to set out factors that differentiate Community Service from Service Learning. In simple terms, all service undertaken in a Service Learning program is Community Service, but not all Community Service activities are appropriate to a well-structured Service Learning program. In essence, Community Service programs, from fundraising to advocacy, see all actions of service as equal in value, as they provide a positive outcome for the community because time spent becomes the measure of value. Thus Community Service programs often measure outcomes in hours involved, while the value of the task itself is rarely considered. Where programs specify a set amount of time to be completed as the measure, this can lead to a process of ‘ticking boxes’ where the aim is to find ways of meeting time requirements. This can lead to those involved seeking tasks to complete that are easy to access and measure time completed. Thus work that actively disengages those involved and is only of nominal value to the community is of equal importance to service which significantly enriches the life of the community and which fosters a desire to continue to be involved. Significantly, it also means that work which completes a task that will need to be done again at a later point is given the same time value as work which raises awareness in the community and advocates for a radical change in the underlying situation to produce a change in ongoing justice outcomes.

The aim of all activities in the Service Learning program at All Saints College must be that they are of real value to those being served and that they provide an engaging, meaningful and personally relevant experience to the participants. Ways in which we can ensure that the opportunities provided at All Saints’ College offer meaningful service to our community include asking the following questions of Service Learning activities:

  • Is this experience appropriate to the age, developmental stages and experiences of the students to whom it is being offered?
  • Do the students understand the wider context of the activity that they are undertaking and how it is providing care and support to the community that they are serving?
  • Do students understand why this need arose?
  • Is the service that they are providing relevant to those participating?
  • Does this activity engage the ‘heads, hearts and hands’ of those involved?
  • Is the service one which the community that we are serving wants?
  • Can we fulfil this task with the resources available to us?
  • Will we be able to see and measure the impact of our service?

Where Service activities clearly are of value to the community which is being served and engage participants in programs that are both personally relevant and challenging, students have a real opportunity to gain satisfaction from their involvement and to find ongoing meaning in caring beyond their own experience. Providing opportunities for meaningful service requires students to have the ability to involve their heads, hearts and hands, and to see tangible and significant results from their efforts.