College hosts Catholic Relief Services Ambassador Training

By Melanie Greenberg
September 28, 2011

Cabrini and Villanova CRS ambassadors after all day training combine forces for social justice issues.

Cabrini held training for Catholic Relief Service ambassadors on Friday, Sept. 23 in Grace Hall.  Fair Trade, HIV/AIDS, Migration, and Food Security were the different issue groups studied and discussed by ambassadors. Students and faculty from schools such as Villanova University and La Salle University came to Cabrini and teleconferences were held with people all over the globe.

Cabrini signed a partnership with CRS in 2005, becoming the first college in the nation to do so. Since then, four other colleges have partnered with CRS.

“The partnership is huge, as CRS is the largest Catholic international relief organization,” Stephen Eberle, director of the Wolfington Center, said. “It is important to Cabrini, as it connects us to the rest of the world.”

Arlene Flaherty, Northeast office coordinator and trainer has been helping Cabrini build the CRS program since its partnership began in 2005.

“She has allowed us to go in different directions than what they had originally planned,” Danielle DiBartolo, senior president of the CRS ambassador club, said. “She has fostered our development and helped make this a campus-wide movement and not just a club and helped bridge the gap between Cabrini, Villanova and other schools with ambassadors.”

The day for the ambassadors began at 9:30 a.m. in Grace Hall, and did not conclude until 4:00 p.m. In between, the four groups would meet and discuss the issues at hand, as well as discuss advocacy and ways to get the word out on their campuses about the issues.

CRS representative Cheryl Mrazik also spoke about advocacy, as well as action alerts for international assistance. Mrazik felt that the ambassadors were right for the job, and that they could truly accomplish progress in the issues that they work in.

“These ambassadors can accomplish something,” Mrazik said. “Outreach to higher education is crucial, as college students are powerful. Their education is crucial to us, and advocacy cannot work without them.”

“We have a lot of first year ambassadors who are not familiar with the issues and so the training gave a background to each of the issues and the mission of CRS and how it relates to Cabrini’s mission in Catholic social teaching,” DiBartolo said.

Jamie Tadryznski, senior history, American studies and education major is entering her fourth year as a CRS ambassador. She spent the last three years working with HIV/AIDS before working with Fair Trade. As the vice president of on-campus advocacy she is working towards creating larger support on campus. As for her role with advocacy, she remains updated with pending legislation for each of the issues and creates action alerts to keep ambassadors informed.

“I feel as though a good deal has been accomplished, especially with Sudan and PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief),” Tadryznski said.

Not only does CRS serve as a club for students to participate in, it also creates a movement with the Justice Matters curriculum implemented three years ago. Faculty advisors for each issue group will be helping to bring CRS into the classroom to strengthen the support on campus.

ECG classes supported Southern Sudan’s vote to become a separate country last year by writing to Congress and lobbying in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C.

Cabrini students were not the only students in attendance, as Villanova University had several students on campus for training. Kaitlin Thompson, a sophomore political science and economics double major, was one of the Villanova students in attendance.

“I’m excited to form connections between Cabrini and Villanova and to have each other as a resource,” Thompson said. “It’s good for all of us to collaborate.”

One highlight from the day was the two schools separating and forming into their CRS groups. They discussed advocacy and events on campus and presented to the entire group for feedback.

The ideas spanned a creative spectrum from the Villanova HIV/AIDS group’s idea to have a campus-to-campus walk for AIDS relief, the Cabrini food and water security group’s idea to host a hunger banquet, and the Cabrini migration group’s idea to create a Middle East task force. Many other ideas were discussed between the students and CRS trainers. All ideas were well-received and are in the process of being implemented on each campus, as well as bringing awareness as a large group.

October also happens to be Fair Trade month, and the Cabrini ambassadors were discussing what to do to celebrate and raise awareness. Several ideas, such as a reception with Fair Trade food held after opening night of Cabrini’s production of “And Then They Came For Me,” as well as Fair Trade Wallyball were discussed. The ambassadors also hope to highlight the campus bookstore’s new line of Fair Trade clothing at the Wallyball tournament.

Overall, the day for the CRS ambassadors was long, but fulfilling. Flaherty asked the students and faculty members for feedback after they were initiated and given formal polo shirts to represent CRS. The feedback has been helpful in the past in making the training more helpful and engaging.

For the new ambassadors, it was the kickoff for what promises to be a successful tenure as a CRS ambassador and the chance to make a change not only for those on their college campuses, but to begin to make a difference in the world. Their next endeavor is a retreat off-campus to create a unified front and further develop the knowledge of the issue groups as a whole.

“Our goal this year as ambassadors is to make it more known on campus and to make it more of a presence,” DiBartolo said. “We want to focus more on advocacy and take it beyond the campus awareness and bring it to legislation to create action and prove we can make a difference, even as college students.”


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Melanie Greenberg

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