Refugees are mothers, fathers, and children. Survivors. Journalists, doctors, and educators. Activists and change-makers.
On this World Refugee Day (June 20), there are more refugees in the world than ever before. Over 100 million people are currently displaced worldwide. The causes of displacement are many and growing. Conflict, like the violence in Sudan and the war in Ukraine, force people to flee. Natural disasters like the Türkiye-Syria earthquake upend livelihoods. And the intensifying impacts of climate change—such as Pakistan’s flooding—leave many with no choice but to leave home.
The core issue of the Cotopaxi Foundation—poverty—often intersects with displacement, since poverty can be a cause and result of displacement. Many of our nonprofit partners, including the International Rescue Committee (IRC), CARE Ecuador, United to Beat Malaria, and Mercy Corps, support refugees.
In addition to providing funding to these incredible organizations, we’ve also long partnered with the Salt Lake IRC office to provide part-time work to refugees resettled in Utah. Under our Card Writing program, IRC participants pen messages of connection and gratitude that we include in every order and have become a Cotopaxi community favorite.
Yasser Alzouabi, a former IRC x Cotopaxi Card Writer
Instead of only viewing the growing refugee crisis as a problem to solve, we can also consider it an opportunity. No matter where they come from or where they go, refugees bring new perspectives, artistic backgrounds, and culinary traditions to the communities where they resettle.
This year, we’re shedding light on how refugees can enrich their new homes through a few powerful stories.
Omaira, Women’s Advocate in Colombia
Even though she’s only 39 years old, Omaira has been displaced twice. First, she fled Colombia to Venezuela, but eventually had to return to Colombia.
She is a community leader who’s become an advocate for protecting women from gender-based violence through workshops and education.
“[The biggest challenge] is reaching all women in our territory and teaching them that there is no reason to live with violence or fear every day,” Omaira explains.
Zahra, Journalist in England
Before being displaced from Afghanistan, Zahra worked as a presenter for a local news channel. “As a journalist, I can raise my voice and spread my speech around the world,” Zahra says.
Now, Zahra is focused on building a new life for her and her two children in Southeast England. She’s been able to continue in her field as a freelancer for the BBC, and she continues to advocate for the rights of women in Afghanistan.
As a single mom who balances a career and parenting, she knows well what women are capable of: “Mothers … rock the baby in one hand and rock the world in the other.”
Nelson, Hair Stylist in Uganda
After his uncle was killed and his entire family threatened, Nelson was forced to flee his home in the Democratic Republic of Congo. When he arrived in Uganda, the first thing he bought was a pair of hair clippers.
Through an IRC program, Nelson was able to connect with a mentor who taught him more skills, including braiding and weaving. His mentor also inspired him to pursue his dream of opening a salon. “The most important thing [my mentor] taught me was that I should never give up.”
Oleksandra, Educator in Ukraine
When the war in Ukraine broke out, Oleksandra repurposed her skills as a college educator to help coordinate the relocation of her colleagues. Now, they all live together in a hostel with five cats and a dog, while continuing to teach via online classes.
One day, she dreams of being able to repair their college and teach in person again.
“I always have to be doing something,” Oleksandra explains, “helping someone.”
Aysha, Mother in Syria
When an earthquake struck Türkiye and Syria in February, Aysha was one of millions displaced. Now, her family of three (with one more on the way) lives in a tent.
“To see your house collapsing in front of you, wall after wall … I still cannot sleep,” Aysha says.
While right now she is focused on immediate needs, she did participate in an IRC program focused on how to earn an income through cooking and selling food. She says her faith is what gives her hope for a better future.
5 Ways to Help Refugees
Make a donation to our partner, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), which currently helps people impacted by humanitarian crises to survive, recover, and rebuild their lives. They’re currently working in over 40 countries to provide health care, education, and programs that empower people to become self-reliant.
Consider sponsoring a refugee—you can start by joining an info session to learn more.
Make your voice heard. The IRC has ongoing petitions and bills it advocates for that you can sign, or you contact your representatives to express your support.
Find an IRC office near you and reach out to find out how you might be able to help locally.
Spread the word! Share this story via email or social to bring awareness to more people. Even if World Refugee Day has passed, this is an ongoing issue that can always use more attention across the globe.
- Support Sudan: One of the biggest displacement crises unfolding right now is in Sudan, where escalating violence is exacerbating an existing humanitarian crisis caused by extreme weather, food shortages, and poverty. More than 1.4 million people have been displaced to date. We’ve provided additional support to the efforts on the ground of our partner, the International Rescue Committee. Learn more about how you can help the IRC Sudan response.
Sudanese women speak with IRC Response staff (photo by Denis Gueipeur for the IRC)