CRS Offers Students Service Opportunities

Casey Saylor, Reporter

The Catholic Relief Services Ministry, a new development of Campus Ministry, is making disaster relief projects from around the world accessible for student participation.

Ambassadors say they are looking for committed, creative and caring members who want to make a difference in the world. Students can get involved with the ministry by attending weekly meetings, researching and organizing informational tables, and battling their own ignorance of social justice issues around the world.

“People on this campus, including myself, often have a hard time seeing things outside of their own communities and lives. They need to know what goes on around the world and the needs that others have,” said CRS Ambassador Maria Weidemoyer.

The ministry focuses on bringing the disaster relief efforts and social justice issues of CRS to life on campus. Efforts include educating students on social justice issues, advocating for solidarity with the global poor and integrating Fair Trade products into campus life.

The campus-wide ministry is a student-oriented section of an international relief network called Catholic Relief Services.

According to the official Catholic Relief Services website, crsfairtrade.org, “Fair Trade is a trading partnership based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks greater equity [fairness] in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the Global South.”

Weidemoyer said the Fair Trade program is her leading interest in CRS.

“I’ve seen very low levels of poverty and what it can do to people,” she said. “The fact that [Fair Trade] can bring people out of that is amazing.”

Weidemoyer experienced some of this poverty during the winter 2013 service trip to Jamaica.
Her group repaired a rundown, three-room building that served as housing for 20 residents, which she describes as living in “a very low state of poverty,” with live wires exposed, no running water and bugs in the dilapidated building.

Weidemoyer said money equals opportunity, and she supports Fair Trade because it gives a fair wage to its workers so “they can provide [food and shelter] for their family… all with the wage they get.”

CRS Fair Trade ensures that all producers and workers are, among other things, paid a fair wage according to their locale, offered opportunities for advancement, provided with equal employment opportunities, and provided with safe and healthy working conditions.

“It comforts me to know that there is some organization out there that cares about this. That gives me hope,” Weidemoyer said.

As an international organization, 93% of the donations CRS received in 2012 went directly toward international programs such as, but not limited to, emergency response, food and hunger, human trafficking and water and sanitation. Headquartered in Baltimore, CRS provides assistance to people in need in 91 countries, according to the official website.

The CRS Ministry also focuses on fighting the campus’s ignorance of social justice issues.

“We’re not going to get much money from people,” said CRS Ambassador Gina Palmiter. “But we can inspire [them].”

To date, the ministry has hosted a number of informational tables in the lobby of Banks Student Life Center, ranging in topic from Fair Trade products and Human Trafficking to the up-and-coming table on the Syrian refugee situation.

Weidemoyer describes her role in the ministry as “overwhelming and important,” but worthwhile “because people really need to know this.”

The ministry began in October 2013 when Campus Ministry asked first-year nursing major Gina Palmiter, junior occupational therapy major Weidemoyer and first-year social work major Casey Saylor to attend a CRS Ambassadorship training seminar at Marywood University. The training, which was targeted at the students of area colleges, included education on the core values of CRS, information on ongoing projects and ideas for the ambassadors to carry back and integrate onto their campuses.

Palmiter said she felt inspired by the training.

“[I was] very humbled and reminded of how blessed I am. The smallest thing I could do was to try to get involved on campus,” she said. “It was really something I could see myself doing for the bet- terment of something else.”

But with only the three Ambassadors at its head, the ministry is slow to gain a following. As these problems persist, Palmiter says the hope, vision and goal of CRS keeps her going, along with the help of her teammates.

“If it weren’t for Casey [Saylor] doing all she has done, we would be nowhere [in the ministry].” She said. “She really got us going.”

Ambassadors envision a time when everyone on campus is familiar with the CRS Ministry and service and educational projects happen weekly, improving awareness and changing things on campus that make an impact for the better.

Upcoming plans include integrating Fair Trade coffee into the dining hall and educating the cam- pus population on the situation in Syria. Previous projects included a Lenten Lunch series that explained the culture and stories of countries where people have been touched by the international CRS organization.

Students interested in the CRS Ministry should contact Casey Saylor ([email protected] edu) or Gina Palmiter ([email protected] misericordia.edu) or talk to Chris Somers in the Campus Ministry office.

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