Conference Spotlight: Catholic Relief Services

Courtney Lang August 11, 2011

By Jacqueline DeCarlo, Guest Blogger

Rigoberto Diaz and Christina Bronsing met when Rigoberto was in the Chicago area to meet with community members. He is a member of the Mexican coffee cooperative MICHIZA. The visit was hosted by Chicago Fair Trade Coalition, which received a grant from CRS Fair Trade Fund. Photo courtesy of Jesus Huerta/CR

At its core, Fair Trade is about building relationships—between consumers, producers, businesses—and what better place to build relationships than in your own hometown? Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Fair Trade is a proud supporter of the Fair Trade towns concept because we know that economic justice can be achieved if we all work together to promote the common good. Catholic social teaching promotes subsidiarity—a fancy way of saying that power should reside at the grassroots, closest to the people impacted by decisions. Organizing Fair Trade Towns gives ordinary citizens the opportunity to shape their local economies according to principles and practices that reflect their values AND have a global impact. It is a great way to bring to life the slogan, “Think globally, act locally.”   Thanks to the CRS Fair Trade Fund, CRS has been able to support town campaigns in Chicago and Los Angeles.

We’ve also been supporters of student activism. CRS Fair Trade is excited by the Fair Trade University concept because we know that having institutions of higher learning get behind Fair Trade will be a powerful force for economic justice.  Recently we gave a grant to Cabrini College and St. Joseph’s University to support efforts at demonstrating how colleges and universities can cultivate individual and institutional Fair Trade leaders.  We suspect that working toward Fair Trade University status is one effective element to educate and motivate a campus community. We also know that engaging students and faculty in debate about the need for Fair Trade and the strengths and weaknesses of its approach will serve to make the movement stronger and more accountable to artisans and farmers.

Across the country, CRS works in the classroom and on campus to promote economic justice through our university partners. Here students at John Carroll University attend a Fair Trade expo. Photo courtesy of Wetzler Studio

Outside the classroom, CRS is exploring how to designate parishes, hospitals, and schools “CRS Fair Trade Institutions” as a way to celebrate deep and broad commitments to economic justice. We envision institutions that serve Fair Trade coffee from our partner network, offer Work of Human crafts in book stores, and use Fair Trade chocolate to Raise Money Right. When institutions make these commitments they deserve to be celebrated and replicated. We welcome your ideas for how to create such institutions or to nominate your own.  Please become a fan on Facebook and post your ideas.  You can also subscribe to our blog by visiting our website.

As Catholics in the United States live their faith in solidarity with their brothers and sisters around the world, they turn to CRS for ways to pray, learn, act, and give. As the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States, CRS alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in nearly 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. We are proud to be supporters of the Fair Trade Towns and University National Conference, and we’ll see you in Philadelphia!


Conference Registration:

The Fair Trade Towns & Universities National Conference is less than 3 weeks away and there is a VERY limited number of tickets left.  Follow this link for more details and to register now:

Discount Hotel Block:

A limited number of are on block for the conference at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.  Reserve a room online here or call 1-800-228-9290 and reference the Fair Trade Towns & Universities Conference.

Travel Stipend Application:

We’re pleased to be able to offer limited financial assistance for the Fair Trade Towns & Universities National Conference to allow leaders, organizers and volunteers to offset travel, meals and accommodations.  It’s easy to apply!  Once you have registered for the conference, fill out the Travel Stipend Application and e-mail of fax it to the address provided in the application.


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Courtney Lang, National Organizer | Fair Trade Campaigns

Courtney Lang brings over 5 years of community organizing to Fair Trade Towns USA, building both the Local Food and Fair Trade networks in Vermont. As Local Food Coordinator with City Market/Onion River Cooperative, Courtney worked with local producers, institutions and consumers to grow the local food system and organize a strategic model for community engagement through farm tours, workshops, and local food challenges. Like many in the Fair Trade industry, Courtney was inspired to take action in Fair Trade when she witnessed child-labor first hand in Costa Rica. As a founding member of Fair Trade Burlington, she has worked with economic development organizations, businesses, and consumers to build awareness of Fair Trade among Vermonters. She also worked with a Fair Trade USA licensee, Vermont Coffee Company, as Friend Ambassador where she united the story of Fair Trade to every purchase of coffee.