Want to Form Resilient Citizens? Start Young.

CADENA kids learning rescue-skills in our summer camp.

By Benjamin Laniado

As an international humanitarian agency, our goal is clear: to provide help to those affected by natural disasters in the fastest and most efficient manner. To do so, we need volunteers willing to sacrifice their time – and, sometimes, their lives – to attend those in ground zero.

We have a database of more than 4,000 people willing to do exactly that.

There is no luck here: the human resource needed for humanitarian action has been harnessed for years. The key is this: start young.

In Mexico City, a Jewish girl or a boy who is nine years old is already eligible to attend our “CADENA Young” camp. This one-week experience in the outskirts of the city is a chance for kids to build self-esteem and learn about Tikkun Olam. During this time, they are also taught first aid, rescue and survival skills, in a fun and dynamic matter.

When this imagined child enters middle school, he or she will most probably participate in Cadena Initiative, our signature program.

CADENA Initiative is an international contest in which schools compete to design the best solution to a vulnerability. Last year, 1210 students representing 10 different countries participated. The team representing the “Doctor Jaim Weizman” school in Costa Rica won first place with a device that shows the number of people inside a building (in case they need to be rescued from a collapse).

When this boy or girl graduates to high school, he can be part of CADENA Club. In this program, outstanding leaders become catalysts for social action within their schools. Club members organize campaigns to help those affected by natural disasters (like the case of Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas) but also visit soup-kitchens and shelters.

Latin American Jews who graduate high school often go to Israel during a gap-year. For those who wish to take their humanitarian skills to the next level, we have developed a two months intensive training with Israeli agency Rescue One, one of the most prestigious rescue agencies in the world. These graduates have saved lives during the earthquake that struck Mexico City in 2017.

And there’s a new program, CADENA College, which keeps these volunteers engaged as they make their way through university.

This is our secret. Our volunteer database has been cultivated through a long and subtle process. Through the diverse programs for young people we are able to create resilient citizens and build a humanitarian army with the capacity to save lives. This is why thousands of people now carry with them a passion for Tikkun Olam.

Benjamin Laniado is Secretary General of CADENA, an international Jewish NGO dedicated to assisting in humanitarian disasters.