Through Cadena International and in collaboration with CEPREDENAC, COPECO and the Government of Honduras, we carried out a third humanitarian intervention in this country to provide aid to the population strongly affected by Hurricanes IOTA and ETA. In collaboration with the community, we installed 513 filters to provide the population with drinking water and distributed community lamps to provide lighting in localities that are still without electricity after the cyclones. In total, we benefited 3,221 people, concluding our work in Honduras.
5780 has been a special year… to say the least. There are multiple reasons, but they can be summed up in a five-letter word, followed by a two-digit number. Unfortunately, this small combination has caused thousands of deaths around the world, setting in motion a whole chain of social, economic, geographic and political negative effects that will only become apparent in the next years—perhaps decades.
With this in mind, I would like to take advantage of the coming New Year celebrations to share some insights of what the COVID-19 crises has meant for us. In the Jewish New Year, we celebrate the ontological creation of the conscious human being. It is the perfect moment to reflect on ourselves and exercise thought, our most powerful tool.
As an NGO dedicated to covering humanitarian crises, COVID-19 has been at the forefront of our operations during the past six months. We are used to helping people affected by hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, armed conflict, migrations and refugees. However, the particular nature of this crises has forced us to completely reformulate how we work.
“Making a difference, hand-in-hand”: for over a decade, this has been our motto. In an uncertain context like Latin America and Africa where help sometimes never arrives to beneficiaries, we are committed to physically delivering aid to the most remote regions. This presupposes direct contact with beneficiaries—always taking into account the humanitarian principles of impartiality, neutrality, independence and humanity—; we are always welcome with warm handshakes and firm hugs.
In the context of the pandemic, however, the social contact that lies at the basis of our work has become a risk. By engaging in it, we are exponentiating the thing that we are seeking to solve. This was no obstacle for us. Quite the opposite. Thanks to a strategic mobilization of resources and tactic changes in how we carry out our missions, we have managed to help more people, in one year, than in the past 15 years.
This year, CADENA has helped more than one and a half million COVID-19 vulnerable people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. We established a digital platform that provides psychosocial and medical help to thousands in the region. We delivered pantries to those who lost their jobs and those who are going through a tough economic time. We donated fully equipped protection kits to health personnel working at the frontlines of the crises. We accompanied elders who have no one to care for them in quarantine. And we continue our search for new humanitarian volunteers who can help us in our fight.
Our forefathers have lived and survived these types of phenomenon before. In CADENA we believe in Homo Sapiens’ capacity to adapt. We have seen cases of cities with high density, like Hong Kong, or countries like Taiwan—both of them close to the epicenter—which have managed to keep the epidemic under control thanks to their previous experience with SARS, in 2002. We can and we should learn from their examples.
When facing this crisis, the world has two options: a turn back towards nationalism and closed borders, or the strengthening of international solidarity bonds. As an international humanitarian agency, we are placing our bets in the second solution. We strongly believe in human solidarity, beyond linguistic, cultural or ethnic borders.
We believe that what distinguishes our species is the capacity to establish bonds beyond the family circle. Cooperation is a stronger survival instinct than force or power. The only way in which we can adapt is by establishing bonds. Only by creating cooperating ecosystems are we able to build resilience.
We hope that next year we find our solidarity bonds further strengthen, through these crises.
Shana Tova Umetuká
Benjamin LaniadoGeneral Secretary of CADENA
The Hebrew equivalent to “Holocaust”, SHOA (שואה), means, quite literally, CATASTROPHE.
The Holocaust was precisely that, a catastrophe extending beyond our imagination, an event that marked humanity as a whole, unmatched in its degrees of sadism and horror. A vulnerable minority was systematically and mercilessly massacred in the name of a supposed ethnic superiority.
In five years, six million Jews died. Many more were forced to flee and ended up in México, Chile, United States, South Africa, Argentina, Guatemala, and many other countries.
Even though the Holocaust took place more than half a century ago, ethnic violence is still present accros the world. We’ve witnessed, time and time again instances of people being massacred because of their ethnicity or their religion. During the beginning of the Twentieth Century, Chinese immigrants were murdered in northern Mexico; in the last decades we’ve witnessed ethnic killings in Rwanda, Kashmir, Yugoslavia, and Sudan; and, currently, a small Muslim minority in Myanmar is under persecution.
Today there are more displaced people than at any point in history.
More than 65.6 millon people have had to flee their homes due to violence and persecution. 22.5 million of them are considered refugees, most of them are underaged. Of those, 10 millon people have been stripped of their nationality, without access to the most basic human rights.
In CADENA we are committed to helping all victims of ethnic violence.
This is why we have carried out missions to help Syrian refugees and to the Kakuma refugee camp, with refugees form South Sudan. Most recently, we have helped the migrants fleeing from persecution in Central America. We will continue to help those in need without distinguishing race, religion or ethnicity.
As an institution based in Jewish valúes, we believe that humanitarian aid should transcend all types of hatred. We are above all, humans, and we have a sacred responsibility to The Other.
Since the beginning of time mankind has celebrated the winter solstice, bringing warmth and joy to the community to get through the long, dark, winter nights. This is the meaning of Chag Haurim, Hanukkah, the festival of lights. During this season we remember the Maccabees: heroes that fought for freedom, human dignity and the right of minorities for self-determination.
When this time comes, each generation of Jews must ask itself: How do we lead by example? What is the cause that will transform concrete social realities? I found answers to these questions in our latest mission to The Bahamas.
The Abaco Island in The Bahamas was a heavenly place with a population of 17,000 people and beautiful wooden houses next to a clear blue sea. All of this changed when Hurricane Dorian with its 300 km-per-hour winds landed on the island.
The category 5 storm, one of the strongest ever registered in the area, was a destructive force that would simply not go away. When it continued its course, it left behind vulnerable populations (Haitians, Dominicans and other illegal immigrants, as well as the elderly) with no resources to survive. Four CADENA volunteers arrived at the Treasure Key airport a few days after.
The whole island appeared as if bomb had just exploted. All the buildings (except a hospital, a government office, and a church that doubled up as a shelter) had been completely annihilated. In order to move around we had to use a car that we found on the street, we filled the tank gas with gasoline provided by sister NGOs.
Our goal was simple: to provide psychosocial and medical consultations and donate 418 solar-powered lamps.
These last items where, without a doubt, the most important part of our work. As of today, many parts of the island are still without power. These lamps have a USB port that allows people to plug in their cellphones. Those stranded in the island had no way to communicate with their loved ones back in their places of origin. The solar lamps allowed them to tell them that they’re alive.
A second group of volunteers left the port of Veracruz with the Mexican Marines a few weeks after in order to deliver 60 tons of aid. We are currently working with the Israeli ambassador to see if we can bring to the island an Israeli technology to clean the beach-front and bring potable water to the population.
By tackling this together, through grit and determination, fighting inequality and providing better conditions for those in need, where we not celebrating Chanukah? This is how we deepen our commitment to our tradition. Not only through rituals but through direct, social, action.
It is this light that guides us. This action of brotherhood towards the stranger has become, for us in CADENA, the most valuable part of our work.
Benjamin Laniado, General-Secretary CADENA.
CADENA was involved in COP25, the largest summit on action and climate change. In which we worked on the basis of knowledge and understanding of the different challenges we face today as a society. Events like these are a great opportunity to continue to develop more and better projects that benefit the sustainable development of communities around the world.
“Our commitment as CADENA is to explore the challenges and how they produce effects in communities; so that on that basis we can generate real and necessary tools based on direct experience and knowledge, and not on imaginaries or ideals of well-being and stability.” – Daniela Goren – Director of Humanitarian Operations of CADENA Chile.
Dr. Joanne Joloy, Director of International Expansion at CADENA, discusses the latest mission to act after the earthquakes––and tsunami—in Indonesia, on September 28 and 29. An estimated 1.5 million people have been affected by these events, there are almost 42,000 displaced people and an estimated 1,200 people deceased.
We left on October 3rd from Mexico City to Los Angeles, and from there to Taiwan. From there, we took a flight to Jakarta but, barely after 40 minutes, someone on the plane screamed. The flight assistants were requesting a doctor on the plane, but no one was responding. As I approached to see what had happened, I realized it was a patient who was in his last breaths.
Unable to communicate, I couldn’t understand what had happened. The patient went into cardiorespiratory arrest. We started resuscitation maneuvers inside the plane, while the pilot returned to the nearest airport. This event took more than 45 minutes and the patient, unfortunately, died.
The event delayed us almost six hours, but once in Jakarta, we bought tickets to Gorontalo, and from there we were part of a caravan to reach ground zero. The journey lasted 28 hours, 12 of which I spent in the trunk of a van, along with volunteer Gabriela Achar.
On the way you could see very nice beaches, I couldn’t believe we were heading for a disaster zone.
Entering Palu was entering the end of the World. Absolutely everything was destroyed. There was a smell of death that I had never noticed before in my humanitarian trajectory; I had to cover my mouth and nose with a cloth.
We were at ground zero during the day and returned before dark, as a nearby volcano had erupted. On our way back, we stopped at a community that was above the water, to play with affected children.
This mission was particularly difficult because of the language barrier. From the plane to ground zero, it was very difficult to communicate with the locals, as they did not speak Spanish, English or French.
In total CADENA delivered 200 Sawyer water filters, which will impact the lives of more than 16,000 people affected, who do not have access to safe drinking water.
CADENA is committed to helping those who flee their homes due to hatred, poverty, and violence. This is why we’ve carried out missions with Syrian and Sudanese refugees as well as Honduran, Venezuelan and Guatemalan immigrants in the borders of Central America and Venezuela.
We helped people like Karina, a 19-year-old mother who fled her home when she found out that her husband belonged to a Honduran gang. Or Carlos, a 58-year-old Guatemalan who made the trip to the United States only to settle in Tijuana, where he lives with his family.
As a Jewish organization, we feel intimately connected to the destinies of those forced into exile. According to the UN: “In 2019, the number of migrants reached 272 million, 51 million more than in 2010. International migrants are 3.5 of the world’s population, a figure that is growing, compared to 2.8 in 2000 and 2.3 in 1980. “
In this constantly shifting world, we must remember that migrants are not alone. CADENA, and many other organizations, are there to give them a hand.
CADENA was born in a restaurant. A group of friends was eating out when, on television, they saw footage of Hurricane Stan. In Chiapas, a southern state in Mexico, several hills had collapsed and the lives of thousands of people were at risk.
Rather than ignoring this information, they decided to act. Upon completting the loading and delivery of a truck-ful of aid, donated by the Jewish Community of Mexico, they realized that they where the ones that benefited the most. To donate your time and resources to a wider cause is to participate in the larger project of humanity.
12 years have passed since then and we can now say that our most important resource is our volunteers. Today we have a database of over 4,000 people ready to help complete strangers in vulnerable situations. In the words of CADENA’s General Secretary Benjamin Laniado: “Our volunteers are the muscle that has allowed us to change the lives of more than a million people.”
“Our volunteers are the muscle that has allowed us to change the lives of more than a million people.”Benjamin Laniado
This is today we celebrate the International Day of Volunteering for Economic and Social Development.
The World of Volunteering
We believe that it is essential to promote a culture of volunteering. According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Civic Societies, the country where people volunteer the most is the United States, with 41.9 of the population doing some volunteering activity on a daily basis, followed by New Zealand (41.53) and Norway (38.93).
Unfortunately, Mexico, home to our international offices is at place 25, with only 10 percent of the population doing volunteer work. According to the National Institute of Statistics,in 2015, only 2 million people volunteered. We think it is essential for this to change: there are many people in need of help, but much more people who can actually provide it.
Join us on the volunteering adventure: you will not regret it!
Category 5 Hurricane Dorian destroyed the Bahamas. Those affected were also the most vulnerable: Haitians, Dominicans and other illegal immigrants without travel papers; elderly people without the strength to start their lives again.
In the first mission, CADENA delivered 418 solar lamps and performed psycho-social help. Benjamin Laniado, Secretary-General of CADENA, was the team leader: “It was as if a bomb had exploded. All buildings (except a hospital, the government building, and one church) were wiped out. “
Immediately after this reconnaissance mission, a second one departed from the port of Veracruz with the Mexican Navy to deliver 60 tons of aid.
But the road back to normality will be arduous. This is why CADENA delivered shelters.
“The first two days we did reconnaissance work, waiting for the ship with the shelters to arrive,” says Santiago Treviño, leader of the mission, “then, together with Hope International, we put shelters where they needed it most.”
“Some houses were standing but had no roofs on top of them. The smell of rot caused by the weather was all-encompassing. The hurricane took everything: poor people lost it all. I saw pain but also courage; what impressed me the most was that, regardless of everything, people still said ‘Thank god for life.’
The team worked inMarsh Harbour, Sandy Point, Treasure Cay, The Intersection and The Farm to deliver humanitarian aid based on needs. In total, 50 temporary shelters were built, each equipped with 5 cots, 2 small fans (which can be activated by connecting them to a USB port), 2 solar lamps (with a USB port), a stove for camping, clothes, and shoes. 250 people were benefited.
Mommy Mizutori, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) for Disaster Risk Reduction, and head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, visited the community of Miguel Hidalgo, in the Mexican state of Chiapas.
The town was hard hit by the 8.2-magnitude earthquake of September 7, 2017. Since then, CADENA has adopted the community and implemented a comprehensive Response, Relief, Reconstruction and Sustainable Development project.
“An example that extends beyond Mexico…”
On her tour through the community, Mami Mizutori emphasized that the case is “an exemplary model not only for Mexico, but globally; we’re going to talk…about what’s going on here, so the strategy can be replicated in other regions.”
CADENA not only helped restore a sense of normalcy among devastated populations, Benjamin Laniado, Secretary-General of CADENA stated, but also established a long-term commitment with the most affected communities.
“Miguel Hidalgo is now more prepared to respond to any natural disasters…”
“If a new earthquake were to happen again today, we are sure that the community of Miguel Hidalgo would not only experience less damage thanks to the more resistant and sustainable construction materials: the community is also more knowledgeable about natural disasters,” Laniado stated.
Among those present at the important event, Raul Salazar, Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean; Saskia Carusi, the External Relations Officer of the Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR); hte promoter in Mexico of the Global Campaign “Developing Resilient Cities” International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR); Angélica López Ortega, the UNICEF representative in Chiapas; and Luis Manuel García Moreno, The Secretary of Civil Protection of Chiapas.