Posted by Michael-jon Pease on Mar 21, 2018
Tuomas Sivula, our outbound student to Thailand, recounted his experiences. Randi Roth, new ED of Interfaith Action (formerly the Council of Churches), outlined their hands-on programs to mitigate the effects of poverty and their structural work with volunteers, houses of worship and nonprofit service providers to address the systems that create poverty.
President Jerry Faletti called the meeting to order at 12:16 pm. David Laird led the club singing God Bless America (in F) with Doug Hartford at the electronic ivories. Jim Miller read a Lewis Jenkins poem as an inspirational minute and clocked in at 62 seconds. Bo Aylin introduced visiting Rotarians and guests. Chuck Whitaker will be our Thursday fellowship speaker. Thanks to today's greeters Clyde Nelson and Scott Van. Past district governor Joe Kovarik showed intrepid and generous leadership by creating and filling the role of complimentary coat checker. “No tips taken, no tickets issued.” Michael-Jon Pease served the club as faithful scribe.Our new member reception yielded both great fellowship and a few potential members.
Tuomas Sivula, our outbound student to Thailand, was introduced by Linda Mulhern to recount his experiences. His experience started with a somewhat frightening trip to the immigration police, but all was well. He spent time in Bangkok with part of his extended host family. He enjoyed seeing the royal palace, museums, and meeting his favorite Thai band. School days were eight hours long and began with prayer and singing both the Thai and the King’s anthem. There is a different sense of respect in Thailand, so even when students goofed off or misbehaved, it felt more disciplined and respectful than the American equivalent. He got to participate in Thai boxing and martial arts, and a little dance. The king, thailand’s longest reigning monarch, passed away. Citizens spoke of him as “my king” rather than “the King.” The whole country wore black in mourning for a full month.The current government is a military dictatorship, but the people seemed ready for change, perhaps even protest. The experience has taught him to ask for help, recognize the good around him, and the strengths he has.
Trixie Golberg promoted next week’s meeting speaker: Leondra Hanson from Hamline University. She will be looking at the historic context of the #MeToo movement.
The Honorable John Guthmann passed the constitutional law quiz Trixie offered with flying colors! Jim Hart introduced today's speaker: Randi Roth, Executive director of Interfaith Action.Interfaith Action was a council of churches in St Paul for 100 years. Their recent strategic work led to both the new name and a vision to relieve the effects of poverty and change its underlying causes. They also embraced partnership outside of the Christian tradition. Their directive: build across the faith community a structure to address poverty.70% of St Paul students are eligible for free and reduced lunch. A Monday snow day means students who haven’t had a solid meal all weekend will go three days without food.Interfaith Action is focused on both “on the ground work” like food shelves and structural work to address systems. They are working toward a triple bottom line to: a) fight poverty; b) educate and activate faith communities volunteers; and c) strengthen religious institutions.
Programs include:
  • Project Home in partnership with churches, synagogues and Cretin Durham Hall to offer shelters with school and life skills classes.
  • Department of Indian Work for the American Indian community.
  • Project Spirit, a culturally specific, African-centered after school experience for kids K-5.
  • Farm-Faith Project which provides recent immigrants and refugees with gardening space.
  • Interfaith Youth Connection, a high school youth leadership development program.
Their systemic program “Opportunity St Paul” matches volunteers, with effective nonprofit organizations to reduce barriers to economic mobility. The volunteers receive ongoing education to help them leverage their donated time, give them context from the nation’s leading experts to make them stronger workers for these partners:
  • Wilder Foundation 
  • CommonBond Communities
  • Daily Work
  • East Side Learning Center
  • Neighborhood House
  • Reading Partners
  • Saint Paul Public Libraries 
Interfaith Action volunteers deliver 5,000 hours each year. Through a portable curriculum and training for current volunteers, 10x as many volunteers could be recruited to provide 50,000 hours of high quality impact for families served. A vigorous Q&A session followed.
President Faletti closed the meeting with the Four Way Test.
Respectfully Submitted,

Michael-jon Pease