By Alyssa Mentzer
In late September, students from Cabrini College and Villanova University came together for an all-day workshop led by Catholic Relief Services to discuss CRS’ mission of global solidarity.
During this workshop 28 students, including myself, were commissioned as CRS campus ambassadors.
We are students who work closely with CRS to educate other students on global issues and advocate on our campuses for a more just world.
Arlene Flaherty, CRS’ justice and peace partnership liaison, led us in discussions on how as ambassadors we are going to assist CRS in spreading their mission.
“I became a CRS Ambassador because I was learning about the injustices throughout the world and thought, ‘what is the point of learning about these issues if I’m not going to do anything about it,’” Kelsey Kastrava, vice president of ambassador engagement and senior communication major at Cabrini College, said.
During the training we divided into issue groups where we learned about the Justice for Immigrants campaign, HIV and AIDS, food security, economic justice and fair trade.
“I went abroad last semester to Botswana, Africa, which has the second or third highest HIV rate in the world. I worked in clinics with it and I was in a public health program while I was abroad,” Michele Woolbert, HIV and AIDS campus ambassador and senior comprehensive science major at Villanova University said. “I saw the opportunity in our newswire about CRS ambassadors and that HIV and AIDS was one of the focus groups, so I thought I’d be able to bring something back from my time abroad.”
Many students, like Michele, have had the opportunity to travel abroad on immersion trips that expose them to many of the issues CRS focuses on. These trips give us knowledge and experience on global issues, which we can share with others on our campus.
The campuses we reach with this knowledge combined with the partnership with CRS makes our relationship with one another unique and mutually beneficial.
As campus ambassadors, we have learned so much about social justice, global issues and advocacy through CRS’ university program. This program has opened our eyes to issues we may have never known about had we not had the opportunity to work with this organization.
Our advocacy on campus reaches a different demographic, which is beneficial to CRS.
“We (campus ambassadors) benefit from CRS because we learn and get involved with great people and events and other students benefit by learning from us,” said Liz Negron, issue group coordinator for HIV and AIDS and sophomore political science major at Villanova University.
So why CRS you might ask? Why don’t students choose another great organization to devote their time to? Well, the consensus among the ambassadors was this:
While you don’t have to be religious or even Catholic to be a part of CRS, the organization is based on Catholic Social Teaching, which we find to be a strong basis for battling issues like hunger and disease. We also feel that the partnership with CRS is a great asset to our education at Catholic colleges. Some of us have been working with CRS for years and for others this is the beginning of our journey. However, no matter how long you are with CRS, you always feel like you’re a part of a family working toward a more just world.
“CRS doesn’t just provide emergency aid. They look at issues systemically and work with people of the countries they are serving to help them build themselves up and empower them,” Danielle DiBartolo, CRS campus ambassador president and social work, psychology and sociology major at Cabrini College, said. “CRS believes in integral human development and bases their practices around it. That is why I love it.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Alyssa Mentzer is a senior at Cabrini College working as a college blogger for CRS.
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