Impact Update: Livelihoods & Skills-Based Volunteerism

At Cotopaxi, we strive to make a difference in the world through our integrated philanthropy model. To augment our giving and leverage the time and talent of our team, we are currently launching a significant skills-based volunteer initiatives in Salt Lake City focused on local livelihoods development.

At Cotopaxi, we strive to make a difference in the world through our integrated philanthropy model and endeavor to grow the movement by encouraging other brands to use their full suite of resources to do good. Our giving strategy addresses the most persistent needs of those living in extreme poverty with efforts that are focused within three key areas: health, education and livelihoods. To augment our giving and leverage the time and talent of our team, we are currently launching a significant skills-based volunteer initiatives in Salt Lake City focused on local livelihoods development.

Utah has a particularly large refugee population, with over 50,000 refugees living throughout the state. Each year, thousands of refugees are forced to flee their home countries due to conflict or persecution, and arrive in the United States with little but their dignity and determination to build a new life. Access to sustainable livelihoods is essential to the rebuilding and resettlement process. Professional development opportunities, job readiness programs, and career-specific trainings enable refugees to adapt their skills and expertise to the local context and understand the landscape of job opportunities in their new home. Companies play a vital role in building resiliency and self-sustainability within the refugee population; developing new skill sets and cultivating talent; and creating pipelines for entry level jobs.


Matt McArthur, Senior Developer at Cotopaxi, taking a photo with the Bhutanese refugees involved in a state-wide skills-based volunteer initiative focused on teaching computer science. 

With these opportunities and goals in mind, we have developed two new strategic initiatives, a computer science program and a product repair program, in addition to our existing Thank You note program. We encourage you to learn more about how Cotopaxi is engaging in the local community and find ways to leverage skills-based volunteerism in your own neck of the woods.

Computer Science & Volunteerism

 Coding as a Skills-Based Volunteerism initiative

There will be 1,000,000 more computer science jobs than students by 2020.

white We strongly believe in the power of skills-based volunteerism to affect change and wanted to utilize our team’s time and talents to meet a real need in our community. Cotopaxi is fortunate to have some outstanding computer scientists on the team. Computer science represents both a significant need and a massive opportunity. According to, “There are currently 586,107 open computing jobs nationwide. Last year, only 38,175 computer science students graduated into the workforce.” They go on to show that in Utah alone, there are currently 5,935 open computer science jobs which is 3x the state average demand rate.


We believe every individual has a right to learn computer science and that this skillset can catapult individuals into well-paid careers without requiring advanced degrees. For members of the refugee community, this represents a real and significant opportunity. Michael Pekarske, the Community Resource Supervisor at the Salt Lake City Refugee Services Office, shared some of the challenges affecting local refugee youth, especially those in high school. When they arrive in the States, youth are placed in grades based on their age, not their ability. Lack of access to quality education prior to arriving in the U.S., lack of consistent schooling due to conflict and migration as a refugee, and English fluency levels all complicate integration into schools and may hinder a student’s ability to succeed before aging out of the public school system.

This is a complex situation that requires a sustained response. Salt Lake City has a thriving startup technology ecosystem and a culture of giving. Cotopaxi has launched an initiative to provide computer science education to the refugee population and is rallying support and engagement from the community to scale this vision. Using’s open-source curriculum, our team has kicked off a pilot program with the Bhutanese refugee community, serving 30 students between the ages of 15-19. Classes take place every Saturday from 10-12 for 20 weeks. Computer science education is paired with job readiness training and professional development, in hopes that participants will leave the program equipped to to take an entry-level role.

Students completing one of their first assignments. 

white Matt, Cotopaxi Senior Developer, teaching coding classes as part of Cotopaxi's Skills-Based Volunteerism initiative.

Matt teaching coding to the Bhutanese refugee community. 

We encourage other organizations and businesses to join us in offering their time and talents to provide coding training for marginalized youth. Participating in this program gives organizations the opportunity to meet a real and sizable need, build a foundation of talent, and engage their employees in in skills-based volunteerism that deepens their impact. As a community, we have an opportunity to create pathways to meaningful livelihoods for these youth through internships and beyond. We invite you to join us; learn how here.

Product Repair Program

Several months ago, Cotopaxi began developing a product repair program inspired by our Human Lifespan Guarantee and our sustainability values. Implementing a product repair program empowers each of our community members to take small acts of conservation and extend the life of their gear.


Density of Refugee Populations across the region.

white It was a natural fit to expand our partnership with the Utah Refugee Services Office by providing job training and mentorship within the product repair program. There are many refugees in the area who were seamstresses in their home country and posses significant talent and experience in the field. Oftentimes barriers like language and transportation stand in the way of these individuals securing jobs, especially when it comes to roles that offer significant professional development opportunities.

The map to the left shows the density of refugee population across the region. Our headquarters is located in Cottonwood Heights, an area that lacks frequent public transit to Salt Lake City and therefore is less accessible to many refugees. Transportation issues coupled with the scheduling demands that many refugees face related to resettlement are real challenges for standard employment opportunities. Despite the challenges, we identified several qualified candidates in partnerships with the refugee services team.


 We are pleased to announce that Jawaher Fadhel has joined our team to help launch this program. Jawaher was born in Sudan and raised in Libya. In 2010, she received her bachelor’s degree in Biology from Aljabal Algarbi University. She moved to Tunisia in 2009, and came to America in 2012 as a refugee. She currently works as a medical interpreter for the Asian Association of Utah and is a full-time student at Salt Lake Community College. She also serves as a community leader for the Sudanese population in Salt Lake City.

Initially, Jawaher will be supporting our research and development (R&D) needs and fixing products that come in through the repair program. Building our in-house R&D capacity enables us to test new ideas and iterate quickly, while also significantly reducing the carbon footprint and cost associated with shipping test projects overseas and back. We are excited to have Jawaher join our team and contribute her expertise to our work.


Jawaher Fadhel, Manager of Product Repair Program