These are people that are looking for safety and that’s what we want to help people understand. We are not taking a political stance, we are not pushing our settlement proposal, we don’t want to be engaged in advocacy around this other than advocating compassion.

There’s a world that exists, somewhere, where people, regardless of race, sex, or ethnicity, are accepted and loved, where everyone works towards a plane that embraces all humans because we want to believe that kindness can still exist, even in the midst of pain and blinding agony. A world that realizes everyone has faults and dreams and beliefs — that no matter how foreign someone might seem, no matter how different they might look from you and I, they long for a place to call home, a place that would embrace them, shelter them, and give them a cradle to live and grow old with the ones they love.

In this world, there is chaos. Paris and Beirut are recent testaments to this, physical embodiments of the hatred that humankind can spew, mind-numbing actions that can’t be understood by a sane and even mind. If I had answers, I would give them. I do not.

things happen that defy natural comprehension, events so ugly that attempting to make sense of them takes you too deep into humanity’s black heart, a place where many venture, few return, and understanding cannot exist. In this place, rage burns white-hot and the more you examine it, the more uncomfortable questions become. Possibly the toughest topic that has risen out of the Paris attack is this: Should countries be welcoming of European and Syrian refugees? Backed by speculation that one of the Paris attackers entered France hidden amongst a wave of refugees, many states are barring refugees from entering, afraid of the same thing happening within US borders.

I’m not a political man — where you fall on this topic is your choice and your choice alone. I am a person that believes people should be treated with dignity and kindness, that part of the human experience is lending your hand to a fallen comrade, individuals beaten and broken by any of the countless problems afflicting this world. Regardless of how you feel politically about refugees, the fact remains that a lot of innocent people have been displaced by war and violence, mothers and fathers and children that don’t have access to simple amenities we take for granted — food, shelter, warmth, safety.

Cotopaxi is a business that believes strongly in humanitarian efforts, founded by CEO Davis Smith with a legitimate desire to change the world. These aren’t just empty words and Cotopaxi has proved time and again that raising awareness and funds for those in need is every bit as important as selling cool backpacks. Now, they’re concentrating on the refugee crisis.

“The refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East is so significant that it triggered our disaster response policies,” said Lindsey Kneuven, Chief Impact Officer at Cotopaxi. “We took a look at the crisis from that lens and really thought about the value that we could provide. In terms of a monetary grant, we are a young company and don’t have the resources to solve this problem. Whole nations don’t have the resources to solve this problem. But we’re hoping to bring the community together to raise awareness and to connect the issue that’s happening abroad to our local refugee population.”

The #JustLikeUs Water Lantern Festival is happening on December 1 at Sugarhouse Park in Salt Lake City. 100% of the proceeds will go directly to the International Refugee Committee (IRC), who in turn can use that money to provide shelter, clean water, winter gear, and other emergency assistance to refugees. Cotopaxi, who has already pledged $250 for each of their employees, is asking for a $20 donation per individual and a $5,000 donation from corporate partners. Every person who gives money will receive a water lantern, where they can write a personalized message pledging their support. All lanterns will then be released on December 1.

“The thing to understand with the current refugee crisis, these refugees are fleeing the same type of violence that we’ve just seen in Paris and Beirut,” Kneuven said. “They are fleeing chemical bombing, starvation, persecution that has been very ugly. That is something we need to be sensitive to. These are people that are looking for safety and that’s what we want to help people understand. We are not taking a political stance, we are not pushing our settlement proposal, we don’t want to be engaged in advocacy around this other than advocating compassion.”

If you’re interested in registering and donating for the #JustLikeUs Festival, you can do so here.

Published 11/25/2015