CRS SALT Summit 2016: Inspired to be Light in the World

By Rita Marino, CRS Student Ambassador at Villanova University and CRS Intern in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic Regional Office

In life, it is so easy to turn a blind eye to the plight of others.  Perhaps our lives appear too hectic or the issues too large.  However, despite distance, race or circumstance, we are all brothers and sisters--part of God's family.  Our everyday decisions impact both the people and the environment around the globe.

It is when we disconnect from the consequences of our actions that the world suffers.  It is when we fail to curb our materials consumption, ignore the cries of those in pain, and worry only about ourselves, that we fall out of harmony with each other.

July 24, 2016 marked the beginning of a special multi-day event where almost 120 students and staff, representing 46 colleges across the nation, united in Baltimore for the Catholic Relief Services SALT (Student Ambassador Leaders Together) Summit. 

During the conference, ambassadors and advisors learned more about CRS' primary concerns for the year--climate change, human trafficking and migration--while indulging in fair trade coffee and receiving training to strengthen our collegiate chapters.

As a participant in the conference, I cannot shake the feeling of global interconnectedness.  After hearing presentations about displaced Syrian families seeking resettlememt, farms in Indonesia yielding miniature-sized corn because of climate change and battered young women being coerced into sex trafficking, I realize just how connected we are as human beings.

In the words of CRS President and CEO Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo, who spoke at the summit, "You are too young to be hopeless."  The world's problems may appear too big of a hurdle to overcome, but it is our responsibility as Catholics--and as human beings--to approach both the people and the land with love and respect.

One of the most important aspects of our hope is that although it may exist abstractly in our hearts, it is expressed tangibly in our actions.  Ambassadors and staff possess the knowledge and conviction to not only hope for a better world but also to actualize it.  This was demonstrated on the last day of the CRS SALT Summit when students met with U.S. senators and representatives to advocate for policies that support solidarity. 

On my campus at Villanova University, our CRS Student Ambassador chapter is living solidarity through efforts to combat climate change and support Syrian refugees.  During the 2015-2016 school year, Villanova ambassadors collected hundreds of advocacy letters for climate change during the Theology Colloquium, co-sponsored the 3rd annual interfaith prayer vigil to benefit Syrian refugees and organized a 5k "Run for Refugees."  We look forward to seeing how we will continue to mobilize around the three issues of climate change, human trafficking and migration during this new school year.

Through eduction, courage and our voices, positive change arises.  May the 2016-2017 school year be filled with strength and love.

New Orleans area Ambassadors and Advisors from Xavier University of Louisiana and Tulane University participate in advocacy visits on Capitol Hill. 

Learn more about the CRS Student Ambassador program here and about future training opportunities here