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
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 Code.org’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.
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.