University Outreach Forges Solidarity

Dear Friend,

As students begin returning to campus for the start of another school year, Catholic Relief Services is once again ramping up our outreach to young adults, faculty and staff in a number of colleges and universities.

Our aim is to forge bonds of solidarity, understanding and friendship between people on campuses here in the United States and the people CRS serves around the world. We do this through activities like bringing speakers from CRS programs overseas onto campuses, supporting immersion experiences, offering online exchanges, conducting HIV and advocacy trainings, and providing reflection materials.

Whenever I've participated in our university outreach, I've found it to be a most stimulating and rewarding experience. Last year, I was able to speak to students and faculty in classrooms across the country during a briefing on U.S. foreign assistance programs. I spoke at some length about the work of CRS, as well as on some of the major U.S. foreign assistance initiatives and the issues we face in fostering economic development to reduce poverty in the developing world.

At the end, I had the privilege of answering questions and engaging in a dialogue with these academics across the country-all from my desk in Baltimore! I was most impressed with the depth of insight and the command of the issues that was evident in the questions. Through the Global Solidarity Network, a CRS and Catholic Higher Education program, we've been able to offer several virtual seminars with CRS staff, and plan to do more in the coming year.

Many colleges and universities have also taken up the banner for fair trade products, such as coffee, chocolate and handcrafts. On a growing number of campuses, the only cup of joe you can find is fair trade. Some have signed up to become fair trade “ambassadors” spreading the good word about how to encourage economic justice in our everyday consumer habits.

There are also thousands of folks on campus who have signed up for our CRS Legislative Network to help us advocate for legislation that encourages peace and justice for our brothers and sisters overseas. The CRS Campus Connection website is filled with ideas and ways you can get involved with our work. Just this past spring, before they had to hunker down for finals, Villanova University and Cabrini College students who had participated in a CRS Advocacy Practicum embarked on a trip to Capitol Hill to lobby their representatives on the topics of foreign assistance and additional funding for food aid. These students learned firsthand how to put solidarity into action.

Thank you for your continued support and your prayers. And I add my personal hopes for a healthy and productive school year.

Ken Hackett

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