During the first half of the semester, the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) student ambassadors have been active in both The University and local communities. Cathy Seymour, a campus minister for social justice, explained that CRS focuses on international issues.
“Catholic Relief Services is an arm of the United States Catholic Bishops that does work of charity and justice throughout the world,” Seymour explained.
Seymour describes the justice club as having a “faith backbone.” One of the club’s main programs so far this semester has been the refugee simulation, which ran on Sept. 25. She says that the thing people said had the biggest impact on them from the simulation was learning that the average stay of a refugee in a refugee camp is 17 years.
In addition to the refugee simulation, CRS student ambassadors have been involved in The University’s refugee committee. Seymour says that while the committee was formed in 2015 particularly to address the Syrian refugee crisis, as the committee has grown they have learned about the pertinence of the issue in the Scranton area.
“…The more the committee has been staffed by faculty and staff and graduate students and undergraduate students, we’ve learned that refugees is a big issue right here in the local Scranton area,” Seymour said. “The local Catholic Social Services resettles refugees at a rate of about 200 per year right here in Scranton.”
She says that students this semester have been meeting refugees at the airport and welcoming them to Scranton. Senior Dena Riccio, the communications director for the club, says that starting a conversation with refugees is an important step for the club.
“We are asking them, what are some things that they need, what are some things that they want from us – even if it is just friendship, even if it is just someone to tutor their kids so the kids know English – and finding out from them what they need instead of just imposing what we think they need on them,” Riccio said.
Starting a conversation with refugees, she explains, is part of a larger campaign called “I am a migrant,” which focuses on putting a human face to the many different stories of refugees. The club, she says, is focused on pushing this campaign over the next few months.
One of the other things coming up for the club is the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ) on Nov. 12-14 in Washington, D.C. IFTJ is open to the whole school and is being hosted by the club. Riccio says that the club will be presenting at the conference.
“You go down to (Washington) D.C. and all the Jesuit schools and high schools and parishes all come,” she explained. “There are big speakers there, and our club – including myself – we are actually presenting at the conference.”
As a justice-centered club, the CRS student ambassadors are also concerned with fair trade. They are planning events this semester along with the Cross-Cultural Centers to help educate students about and to support fair trade.
Seymour says discussions about fair trade have gone beyond planning these events, and could possibly lead to The University becoming fair trade certified.
“We started talking about the possibility of having The University become fair trade certified, which would mean conversations with Aramark and the bookstore to offer some fair-trade options in all of their venues on campus,” Seymour explained.
Riccio says educating students about fair trade empowers them to do something, and explains that fair trade is important for many farmers. She explains that fair trade can help guarantee that they have access to good education for their children and safe housing.
The club has been active on campus this semester, and Riccio says that one of the things which motivates her to be so active in the club stems from being an occupational therapy major. She explains that in occupational therapy, it is important to advocate for your clients, many of whom have some form of disability.
“I want them to have as much access as any other person would and I think that that should be true for all people on the earth,” she says.
Riccio says that she sees great potential for growth in the club. The more students know about the club, she believes, the more students will get involved, which will help the club grow. As the semester goes on, the club has plans to continue being active in both the campus and local communities.