Operación Mato Grosso

Operación Mato Grosso is a movement composed principally of young Italians who give their time to help the very poor in Peru, Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia. Already in the 70s, the first missionaries started heading for the remote villages in the Peruvian Andes where nowadays art-based learning activities using wood, stone and fabrics are organised, as well as health and nutrition campaigns. When we, the young people or adults, are not on a mission, we are busy with such activities as collecting cardboard and paper, iron, foodstuffs, cereals, construction materials, to help our friends in their work.

Our activities began in order to help Father Ugo de Censi, an Italian priest who decided in the 70's to live in Chacas, at the time a very remote and poor village situated in the northern Peruvian Andes. Most of us started to help out whilst teenagers by collecting donations. The next step was to go on a mission and learn about the lives of these very poor and neglected people.  In the rural areas of Peru, we worked mainly with Quechua speakers, children, women,old people and those with disabilities. We helped this priest to respond to those who often said that they "don't know who to turn to" and who gave us potatoes and sometimes eggs when things were going well for them. Soon we started to give food and medicine to the elderly, we also learnt  Quechua so we could teach things to the children. We looked for markets for the local produce and helped to find jobs for the men and women so they could support their families. We also began to look for sponsors.  A little while ago I met Erika, whom I had not seen for six years. She is a volunteer who is in charge of an old people’s home in Pomallyucay (Ancash Peru). Erika was happily holding baby Cesar in her arms. Only a few months old he has  recently recovered from severe malnutrition. Thinking about how poor people’s needs are never ending, it occurred to me that this attractive retirement home was now also sheltering those with mental health problems and abandoned children and thus had become a place of exchange.    Children from the village visit in the afternoon for their activities and games, as well as adults need a medical consultation and medicine. This promotes  integration and the social cohesion of the community.