The initial idea of the Operation Mato Grosso Mission (Operation Mato Grosso or OMG) was born in October 1964, when Father Ugo de Censi (who would become OMG’s leader) met Father Pedro Melesi, who was visiting Italy after ten years of missionary work in Mato Grosso, an inner region of Brazil bordering Bolivia. Father Melesi described the situation of his people and the difficulties he encountered in his work.
Father Ugo promised to help him and during the summer camps in Val Formazza the idea of a youth missionary expedition was launched. In 1967 the first expedition traveled to Poxoréo, Brazil where they built a youth center. Thus Operation Mato Grosso’s mission had begun.
It first started like an adventure but gradually took the shape of a movement, whose nature has been defined over the years through gradual and continuous progresses linked to people's lives.Today OMG is a national movement aimed especially to young people, and proposes working for the poor for free; thereby following the motto: "Stop talking, put words into action"
Through this commitment, the volunteers begin an educational journey that leads them to discover and acquire some fundamental values for their lives: fatigue, free labor, social commitment, consistency between words and life, teamwork, respect and collaboration between people, sensitivity and attention to the problems of the poor and the effort to learn to love.
In Italy, there are now several groups of young people who gather and work to raise funds for expeditions to South America, where around 300 volunteers are operating in more than 80 missions. They are assisted by groups of Italian volunteers who give their free service for four months. The activity of the missions is aimed to support the poor in particularly depressed and isolated areas in Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, and in some areas of degraded suburbs such as Nuevo Chimbote.
Our interventions have focused on the educational field (creating agricultural schools, vocational schools for wood carving/for textiles, nursing schools... and now also a paper mill), the religious field (churches, oratories, seminaries), the health field (hospitals, clinics, infirmaries...), and the social field (creating cooperatives, building houses, bridges, roads...).Students, are chosen among the neediest families and receive free education, vocational training, room and board.