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Catholic Teens Transform to Work for Justice

The three-day retreat was supposed to be a fun getaway with friends. That's what high school sophomore Vince Roach thought. "I had no idea what fair trade was or who Catholic Relief Services was," he admits.

But reality set in at the group's first dinner, when Vince did a double take at his plate. There was only a baked potato and a modest serving of salad. "Being American, I was naturally wondering where the main course was."

The meal was symbolic of how the poor live around the world, and the underlying message throughout the retreat—one of three led by the Diocese of Orlando and sponsored in part by the CRS Fair Trade Fund. Held at the Open Gate Retreat Center in Williston, Florida, the retreat serves about two dozen Catholic teens. They visit a local fair trade coffee roaster and work on projects, sometimes in the intense Florida heat, "as a way to draw the connection between how poor farmers and artisans in rural villages work each day and are still not able to provide the basic needs for their families," says CRS staffer Simone Blanchard.

Vince and others came away with new perspectives on poverty. "The food that I take for granted every day is food that these farmers and their families never get to have simply because they don't have enough money," says Vince.

Photos by Stephanie Bosse for CRS

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