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Local Hero: Moved by a Heartbreaking Photo, Cristal Munoz-Logothetis Took Action

 

Heavy Burden

Cristal Munoz-Logothetis admits she was never one to follow the news. Then she saw the heartbreaking photograph of Alan Kurdi, the 3-year-old boy whose image made global headlines in September 2015 after he drowned in the Aegean Sea fleeing Syria’s civil war, and she had to know more. “I started reading everything I could about the refugee crisis,” she says. “I saw pictures of women holding their babies and thought, ‘How are they walking hundreds of miles?’ My son, Leon, was 2 years old then, and I could barely carry him through the supermarket.”

Close to Home

When Cristal, 32, learned that Kurdi’s family had been trying to cross from Turkey to the tiny Greek island of Kos, she had her eureka moment. “That’s where my husband, John, is from. And I had just visited my family in Spain, where I could never have gotten around without a baby carrier,” she says. “I realized that these carriers were something that could make the journey a little easier for refugees.” Within days, Cristal started asking friends and family via Facebook to donate baby carriers and also launched an Indiegogo.com campaign to get the funds to ship them to Kos, where John’s relatives had agreed to distribute them. “My goal was 100 carriers and $1,000,” says Cristal, who owns a translation and interpretation services business in Glendale, CA. “But then someone wrote about it online, and the story went viral. The next thing I knew, I walked into the office and boxes were stacked from floor to ceiling.”

Personal Touch

After just one month, Cristal had received $42,000 and 3,000 carriers, and women across the country were asking how they could help. Because humanitarian efforts in Greece were understaffed and underfunded and aid wasn’t reaching those in need, Cristal decided to deliver the goods herself. With 500 carriers in tow, she and a volunteer flew to Kos, which was inundated with refugees. “We fitted each woman and adjusted the carrier to her child,” she says. “They were hesitant at first, but once they saw their baby was snuggled safely while their hands were free, the women were so grateful. This was life-changing for them.”

Incredible Journey

In November 2015 Cristal founded the nonprofit Carry the Future, which has since grown exponentially. There are now volunteer chapters across the U.S. and in 20 countries. The organization has collected 30,000 carriers to date, ships them to Greece and sends small groups to distribute them in refugee camps throughout the country. Last June Carry the Future began delivering “baby boxes” with mosquito nets, diapers, blankets and other infant supplies, and hopes to expand to Jordan and Lebanon this year. Even though she’s busy juggling the demands of her nonprofit, day job and motherhood, Cristal, who has made four trips so far, can’t wait for the next one. “Now we can help refugees in a meaningful way and face-to-face,” she says. “It’s magical.”

For more information or to donate, visit carrythefuture.org.