Ivan Carranza, 24, with his daughter, Maikelis, immigrants from Venezuela.
(photo credit: COURTESY CADENA)
Ivan Carranza had to sell his bed, fridge and kitchen to pay for the 18-hour-bus-ride to the border in Colombia. Back home, life had become unsustainable. With his monthly salary he could only pay for 4-days food. If he stayed longer, he and his daughter Maikelis would die.
Ivan recently arrived at El Refugio: an immigrant camp located in Colombia’s Arauca region. He now lives with his mom in a plastic hut, with no water and no electric service.
During the past year, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans like Ivan have arrived at different towns along the Colombian/Venezuelan border and are living either on the streets or in makeshift houses made of plastic and aluminum. Earlier this year, the Colombian government called on the international community to attend this evolving humanitarian crisis that is threatening the stability of South America.
Many heard the call.
Ivan recently received assistance from CADENA, a Jewish humanitarian aid-agency based in Miami. The NGO delivered 1,000 solar-powered lamps and 400 water filters to families in the conflict-ridden Arauca region. The mission was particularly personal, since half of the volunteers where Venezuelan Jews who, like those receiving aid, had to flee their country in search of a better life.
CADENA was created 12 years ago by a group of Mexican Jews who brought humanitarian aid to towns affected by flooding from hurricanes. Since then, the NGO, specialized in disasters and emergency relief, has expanded internationally and has now outposts in Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Israel, Guatemala, South Africa, and the United States. The international missions have impacted more than 730,356 people in 15 countries, including, but not limited to: Chile, Syria, Haiti, Guatemala, Nepal, Turkey, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.
But CADENA´s work goes beyond immediate response to full on communal recovery. In Mexico, thousands of people are still sleeping outside their homes after the 8.1 and 7.1 magnitude earthquakes that killed over 300 people. Besides providing temporary shelters for up to 10,000 people across affected states, the humanitarian NGO has committed to building 60 houses, a schoolroom and a medical center in the town of Miguel Hidalgo, Chiapas--as well as well as 42 houses in the town of Tlayacapan, Morelos.
“This is part of our ongoing commitment to the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam.” CADENA´s President, Benjamin Laniado. “We have evolved from first-aid and rescue missions to reconstruction and economic recovery programs.” Taking into account the importance of empowerment, CADENA is currently implementing resilience projects, as well as, educational programs in low income communities. The goal is to provide the less fortunate with the right tools, so they can lift communities out of poverty. CADENA seeks to change their survival trajectory to one of growth and development.
CADENA´s scope of action goes beyond Latin America: this June, the NGO will bring food and basic supplies to communities affected by one the worst droughts in modern times. Volunteers from all over the world will offer humanitarian aid to people in the Turkana region, in Kenya. (Click here
to read more about this mission.)
In the end it’s about being present where its needed more and can generate a bigger impact. “It is important for us to show to people like Ivan that they are not alone. someone is thinking of them.” Roy Hausmann, Board Member of CADENA, and expat Venezuelan Jew, said, “And we will continue our work: As a matter of fact, we are already planning another mission to the border of Colombia and Venezuela, this year.”