CRS College Ambassadors engage the community around critical global issues
VILLANOVA, PA. – Students and faculty from Villanova University were commissioned this fall as Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Campus Ambassadors, a role which provides them the opportunity and resources to engage communities around critical global issues that directly impact the lives of the global poor. For 2011-12, Villanova has 45 student ambassadors in five issue groups, including Fair Trade, Food Security, HIV-AIDS/Global Health, Migration, and Peace-building.
Recent CRS Campus Ambassador Program activities have rallied and informed the community around global events such as Southern Sudan’s referendum vote and declaration of independence, Fair Trade as a means to economic justice for small farmers and artisans, HIV and the care for orphans and vulnerable children affected by the disease, and global hunger.
“Students play a vital role in educating and activating youth around the needs of the global poor and what we can do to help,” said Lou Charest CRS’ program advisor on outreach to Colleges and Universities. “Students learn first about the needs; then they learn how CRS responds with both technical expertise and respect for human dignity. We look at these global challenges through a lens that is just, and for solutions that are sustainable.”
The fall commissioning came after a day-long training – held at CRS Headquarters in Baltimore and simultaneously at host campuses in Philadelphia, Vermont, New Hampshire and Atlanta – which included briefings by CRS policy and technical experts explaining CRS’ international humanitarian work in the areas of Fair Trade, Migration, Hunger and Food Security, and HIV and Orphans and Vulnerable Children. CRS staff presented an introduction to the mission and approach of Catholic Relief Services and training on how to advocate on these issues with elected officials.
“The Ambassador program offers students an unparalleled opportunity to broaden the way we see the world and our responsibility to protect it,” said Villanova senior Kerri Robertson, who serves as president of the University’s CRS Ambassadors program. “The program allows us to educate ourselves about important issues on a global scale, while simultaneously educating the Villanova community through creative, unique events.”
This year, Villanova’s CRS Campus Ambassadors plan to expand their outreach and engagement on campus through events such as documentary screenings, panel discussions, prayer vigils, and Fair Trade product sales.
“We also incorporate advocacy into these projects through methods such as letter writing and phone calls to our representatives,” added Robertson. “This helps illustrate the power that we, as college students, have to advocate on behalf of the most poor and vulnerable people in the world.”
"What makes the CRS Campus Ambassadors program so unique and vital is the fact that the students are counted on to have a very concrete, real-world impact,” said Will Stehl, Villanova’s faculty advisor for the CRS Campus Ambassadors program and an Associate Director in both the Centers for Campus Ministry and Peace & Justice Education. “The Campus Ambassadors join in the CRS efforts to shape U.S. foreign policy by educating the campus community and mobilizing them to take part in CRS advocacy actions, calling on everyone to protect and promote human dignity by using their voice to support their voiceless brothers and sisters overseas."
Students and faculty from Mount St. Mary’s, Notre Dame of Maryland University, Loyola University, Catholic University of America, Sienna College, Wheeling Jesuit University, and Cabrini College also participated in the commissioning and training. Students from Catholic colleges in other states across the country will also be trained this fall. Going forward, CRS will provide resources and ideas that the CRS Campus Ambassadors can use to engage members of their campus communities, including legislative advocacy.
Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency provides assistance to people in need in nearly 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. For more information, please visit www.crs.org or www.crsespanol.org. Follow CRS on twitter @CatholicRelief @CRSNews.
Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.