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mexico  cadena-sm Oaxaca, Mexico

About the Volunteer Work


According to the government of Mexico, 42% of the population lives below the national poverty line and lack basic nutrition, education, and utilities such as water. Six percent of the population (7.4 million people) live in “extreme” poverty with even worse conditions. Despite changes in government economic policy and growth of the Mexican economy, there are extreme gaps between rich and poor, and lack of opportunities for those living in poor rural areas.


Oaxaca, a state in southern Mexico, has historically remained separate from much of the country and has not benefited from recent economic growth. Along with other southern states, Oaxaca suffers from the highest levels of illiteracy, unemployment, and lack of basic services such as running water, sanitation and infrastructure in the country.

The state of Oaxaca suffers from a negative reciprocal relationship between poverty and frequent natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes. The disasters hamper economic progress; simultaneously, poverty prevents residents from anticipating, surviving, and recovering from the impact of emergencies.

Join our team of volunteers to work with the local population in much-needed educational projects ranging from basic literacy, to sustainability and agricultural development, to natural disaster and emergency training.

Our Volunteer Projects include:


·       “Kitchen class” – provide reading and math classes, along with home-cooked, healthy meals, to local children who don’t attend regular school.

·       Community Resiliency Project - train local community members to diminish avoidable risks of recurring natural disasters, increase access to available resources, and aid recovery from previous disasters, in partnership with the local organization Cadena: Mexico's Committee for Natural Disasters and Emergencies.

·       Sustainability Center - Train local farmers (including women and children) to maximize their resources, improve the marketing of their products, promote ecosystem regeneration, implement improved agricultural methods and recovery of water sources, and other activities for increased sustainability.

·       Young Adult Leadership Initiative - Develop local young-adult leaders, providing professional assistance and training, and motivation for young leaders to stay and develop Oaxaca for sustainable growth.

About Cadena: Mexico’s Committee for Natural Disasters and Emergencies

Cadena is a non-profit organization founded in 2008 by the Jewish Community of Mexico to provide a proactive response to the consequences of natural disasters in Mexico. Since 2008, Cadena has made 33 deliveries of humanitarian aid throughout the country, helping victims of hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, floods, droughts, and frosts, among other disasters. They have delivered more than 800 tons of food and 20,000 pieces of clothing. "Mano a Mano" (“Hand to Hand”) deliveries are accompanied by doctors and dentists to provide emergency medical attention. Cadena’s mission is to reduce the vulnerability of the population living in constant risk of natural disasters with the goal of creating a culture of prevention and inclusion. For more information see:

What is Project TEN?

Investing in Social Change

"תן", pronounced "Ten," is the Hebrew word for "Give."
It is also the name of a Jewish Agency initiative that is revolutionizing the Jewish meaning of giving.

The Jewish Agency's Project TEN: Global Tikkun Olam harnesses the energies and passion of Jewish young adults from Israel and around the world, who spend three months working and learning together in onsite service projects in vulnerable communities throughout the world and in Israel.

By highlighting the Jewish values that speak directly to sustainable development, social justice, and leadership, Project TEN serves as a unique immersive service-learning framework for volunteers wishing to engage in sustainable development as they themselves develop – forming an extensive Jewish identity-building experience. Volunteers in each of our development centers are carefully chosen from all over the world, connecting the global Jewish family to one another and to Israel.  Read more

Life at the Center


To get a glimpse of a day in the life of a participant at the TEN-Cadena Center, click here and here

Center Staff

Laurie Felder

Director of the Mexico Center

Laurie comes to Project TEN from the United States by way of Guatemala, where she spent the past two years working as a Peace Corps Volunteer on rural health issues. Before participating in the Peace Corps, Laurie served as a Fellow in the Israeli Ministry of Health, where she worked on the Healthy Israel 2020 report, Israel's long-range health-targeting initiative. Prior to this she spent three years as a Congressional Staffer to US Representative Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona, for whom she handled health legislation. 

Laurie has extensive experience in public service and community development. In addition to the Peace Corps, she has worked with the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona on food desert eradication; Habitat for Humanity; the International Hospital for Children (a "hospital without walls" that connects sick children with a host hospital for treatment); and Rebuilding Together (which facilitates renovations for low-income homeowners in the United States).

Laurie earned a BA in Political Science and Spanish from Ithaca College, as well as a Masters in Public Health in International Health and Development, from Tulane University's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

The Jewish Agency is currently accepting applications for those who wish to join our staff in the new Project TEN center in Oaxaca, Mexico. Available positions include Educational Director, and Project Coordinator. If you are interested in working for Project TEN, send your resume to before February 15.

Program Dates

The next Project TEN groups in Oaxaca will take place on the following dates:

  • April 27 - July 27, 2015
  • Summer Track I: June 1 - July 27, 2015
  • Summer Track II: July 1 - August 30, 2015
  • August 3 - October 22, 2015
  • November 5, 2015 - February 2, 2016

(Dates may change slightly; contact our staff at for updates).




The cost for a three-month Project TEN track is heavily subsidized, and it includes volunteer, social, and learning activities; transportation between the center and your volunteer placement; Internet connection; trips and excursions; and food and lodging. Cost is just under $10 per day, and a total of $900 for a three-month program.

The cost does not include your airfare to the target country, health insurance, visa fees, or vaccinations.

Upon acceptance to the program you will be given instructions to reserve your place with a $75 registration payment through this website, which is included in the total of $900 per track, and not in addition to it. The balance will be paid prior to arrival.

For information about the Pay It Forward Fund, which might subsidize up to 50 percent of your participation costs -- with your pledge to pay back the scholarship to provide aid to future volunteers -- please go to our cost section.

Practical Details

Climate: General climate averages in Oaxaca state (source:

  • Spring (March-May) – High: 27-31°C, Low: 14-16°C.
  •  Summer (June-Aug.) – High: 26-27°C, Low: 15-16°C.
  • Autumn (Sept.-Nov.) – High: 26°C, Low: 10-15°C.
  •  Winter (Dec.-Feb.) – High: 26-27°C, Low: 8-9°C.

Keep in mind that climate is different at different altitudes, and Oaxaca has many mountainous regions. The areas in Oaxaca State that are closer to the Pacific are hotter and drier than areas that are located inland. Oaxaca City's climate is quite moderate.

Time Zone: UTC/GMC -6. DST starts in April and ends in October.

  • From New York: Oaxaca is 1 hour behind New York.
  • From Israel: Oaxaca is 8 hours behind Israel.

Dialing codes:

International country code: + 52 (Mexico)
Area code: 951

Currency: Mexican Peso.

100 Pesos = Roughly 7.83 American Dollars / 29.5 Israeli Shekels (updated to 17/12/2012)

Electricity supply: Power output in Oaxaca is of 110 volts and 60 cycles AC (slightly higher than the AC current in the US). The outlets are the same as the US 2-prong ones. Grounded 3-prong outlets exist but they are not common. We recommend you bring a multi-outlet plug adaptor.

Oaxaca Culture and Economy

Oaxaca City (Full name Oaxaca de Juárez, pronounced Oh-ah-kha-kah de Khu-ah-rez) is the capital of the state of Oaxaca – a state within Mexico that comprises almost 5 percent of the entire country's territory and is home to over 3 million inhabitants. The state is located in the south-west portion of Mexico and is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the south. Oaxaca City, located about 300 miles (480 km.) south of Mexico City at a very high altitude, has about 250,000 inhabitants. The language spoken in Mexico is Spanish, with different dialects for every region.

Roman Catholics comprise 89 percent of the total population in Mexico. The Jewish population is estimated at 40,000-50 (about 0.04% of the total population, the exact numbers are not known), of which 90 percent reside in the Mexico City area. There is no Jewish community in Oaxaca.

Economic Achievements

The economy of the state of Oaxaca is largely dependent upon tourism. Visitors to the city of Oaxaca and the coastal communities of Huatulco, Puerto Escondido, and Puerto Angel are the most important source of income. The second-largest economic producer in the state is coffee. All over Mexico the government strongly supports the development of coffee agriculture; as of 2011, Mexico is the 9th biggest coffee producer in the world.

Another source of income, also related to tourism, is indigenous artwork. Oaxaca has a very rich cultural heritage and indigenous art takes a prominent role in the cultural life of the state. Art products and merchandise provide income for many inhabitants in the more visited regions.

Economic Challenges

Oaxaca is one of the most underprivileged regions in Mexico. Agriculture (except for coffee agriculture) is underdeveloped and unsuccessful due to the low quality of the soil and the high vulnerability of the region to natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods. Underutilization of natural resources and a lack of educational infrastructure in the rural areas of the State of Oaxaca cause substantial migration from these regions to big cities, and different states and countries, to look for work and education. Many people migrate temporarily to Oaxaca City to work there, then send funds to their families in their native town or village.

Sites of Interest

During your three months with Project TEN you will be working very hard at your volunteer service, Jewish learning, and other responsibilities. However, we know that you might be interested in touring the region. If you want to arrive in Oaxaca early, or stay after Project TEN, and visit the sites on your own time, you are welcome to do so.

  • The Historic Center of Oaxaca City, established by the Spanish in the 16th century is a beautiful touristic area. Many well-preserved historical monuments and buildings, well-maintained, clean streets, and pleasant coffee shops and restaurants make the historic center an excellent place to spend a day off.
  • Monte Albán, right outside the city of Oaxaca, is a remarkable archeological site and a marvel of human creation. Inhabited over a period of 1,500 years by a succession of peoples – Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs – the terraces, dams, canals, pyramids, and artificial mounds of Monte Albán were literally carved out of the mountain and are the symbols of a sacred topography.
  • The Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Garden (Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca), located in Oaxaca City, is a showcase for Oaxaca's indigenous flora. It was created in the '90s by artists and activists, and it illustrates a unique relationship between plants and culture.
  • El Llano Park is one of the main parks in Oaxaca. Until the 1970s, the park was used as a zoo. The park often houses civic and cultural events and exhibitions. It is a beautiful place to have a picnic or spend a nice day.
  • Oaxaca Lives in Me ("Oaxaca Vives en Mi") – Held every Saturday at about 6:00PM in San Francisco Park in Oaxaca City, "Oaxaca Lives in Me" is an initiative by a cultural movement called "Antequera" together with the Ministry of Culture and the City Council. This initiative includes opening a space in the city center for local, regional, and national artistic groups of various fields (dance, music, many types of art) to perform and present their shows to all walks of society.
  • The Oaxaca Beaches – the southern coast of Oaxaca is a magnificent natural treasure, with white, sandy beaches underlying colorful lagoons of crystal-clear water. Traveling through the southern coast is a beautiful and scenic experience. It is not recommended to travel from Oaxaca City to the beaches by car, because of dilapidated roads that are often damaged due to natural disasters; taking a flight to Huatulco or Perto Escondido is much safer and more convenient.
  • Hierve El Agua Waterfall – Located in the central valley area, about 70km from Oaxaca City, Cascadas de Hierve el Agua are two (approx.) 50-meter stone "waterfalls" made of calcium carbonate (the white color of the minerals make it look like a real waterfall). The waterfall form is created by water rich in calcium carbonate that seeps through the mountain to create stalactites. At the base of the falls there are two small carbon springs, which give the illusion that the water is boiling, though the water never exceeds a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius (77 F). At the top of the falls there are artificially created pools that are open for swimming. The area is the home of a large variety of flora and fauna and is a beautiful place to hike. The falls are located on the Roeguía Ranch, which is located 5km from San Lorenzo Albarradas and approximately 70km from Oaxaca City.
  • Macedonio Alcala Theater, completed in 1909, is an architectural and artistic masterpiece with a strong Renaissance influence on the outside and a French influence on the inside.

Helpful Phrases in Spanish

Hello – hola (oh-lah)

Goodbye – adios (ah-di-os)

Please – por favor (por fah-vor)

Thank you – gracias (grah-see-ahs)

You're welcome – de nada (de nah-dah)

Good morning – buenos dias (boo-eh-nos dee-ahs)

Good afternoon – buenos tardes (boo-eh-nos tar-des)

My name is.. – mi nombre es... (mee nom-bre ehs)

I don't know – no sé (no seh)

I'm hungry – tengo hambre (ten-goh ahm-breh)

I'm thirsty – tengo sed (ten-goh sehd)

I need – necesito (neh-seh-see-toh)

Right now – ahora mismo (ah-oh-rah mees-moh)

Just a minute – un momento (oon moh-men-toh)

It's cheap – es barato (ehs bah-rah-toh)

It's expensive – as caro (ahs kah-roh)

It's cold (weather) – hace frio (hah-seh free-oh)

It's hot (weather) – hace calor (hah-seh kah-lor)

A little – un poco (oon po-koh)

A lot – mucho (moo-cho)

Some – unos (male) / unas (female) (oo-nos / oo-nahs)

Tomorrow – mañana (ma-nee-ah-nah)

Morning - la mañana (lah ma-nee-ah-nah)

Afternoon - la tarde (lah tar-deh)

Evening – la noche (lah noh-cheh)

Next week - la semana próxima (lah seh-mah-nah proh-ksee-mah)

Breakfast – desayuno (deh-sah-yoo-noh)

Lunch - almuerzo / comida (ahl-moo-ehr-soh /k-mee-dah)

Dinner – cena (seh-nah)

Bathroom - el baño (ehl bah-nee-oh)


How are you? – ¿cómo está? (koh-moh ehs-tah)

What is your name – ¿como se llama? (koh-moh yah-mah)

Where is/are..? - ¿donde está/están..? (don-deh ehs-tah/ehs-tahn)

When (what day/date)? - ¿cuando? (koo-ahn-doh)

When (what time)? - ¿ A cuál hora? (ah koo-ahl oh-rah)

Who? - ¿quién? (kee-ehn)

Why? - ¿por qué? (pohr keh)

What? - ¿qué? (keh)

How much does it cost? - ¿cuánto cuesta? or simply ¿cuánto? (koo-ahn-toh koo-ehs-tah)

Can you help me? - ¿Puede ayudarme? (poo-eh-deh ah-hoo-dahr-meh)



For any questions, please write to us at