I just followed the wind

Father Barbieri

The man with the megaphone

Known as a “megaphone of charity” for his style in moving the consciousness of the Italian population undergoing great change, Father Barbieri founded COOPI on the 15th of April 1965.

Father Barbieri was an unusual Jesuit and a tireless worker and moreover he was a missionary until the last days of his life: he was not satisfied being at the head of his NGO, but he did all he could within the activities of raising awareness and funds for the poor.

From the roads of Milan to the African districts, Father Barbieri’s priority remained that of helping others in need, making no differentiations, no judgements. This was a new way to consider the International Cooperation, finally open to motivated members of the lay public, where cooperation means “to do things together”, side by side.

Father Barbieri describes COOPI
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“I just followed the wind”

Life of Vincenzo Barbieri, Father of international voluntary work.

“I just followed the wind” (Italian Missionary Editor, pp 240, euro 14,00, preface by Andrea Riccardi) is the book that describes the story of COOPI and its charismatic founder, Father Vincenzo Barbieri (1930 – 2010), for the first time.

The book was written by two protagonists and friends of Father Barbieri: Luciano Scalettari, a journalist of the Famiglia Cristiana, who was a correspondent in Africa for two years and Doctor Claudio Ceravolo, now President of the NGO. The book was inspired by one of the most famous phrases of Father Barbieri: « I met this reality of lay people leaving, and I, too, departed to where the wind was blowing».


The stages of Father Barbieri

Vincenzo Barbieri is born

The founder of COOPI was born on the 8th of February in Cortile San Martino, in the province of Parma.

COOPI is born

Barbieri officially founded Cooperazione Internazionale together with 18 volunteers on the 15th of April. The aim was to “send one’s own associates as technicians in developing countries”.

Father Barbieri retreats

When COOPI enters into a more mature phase of its existence, Father Barbieri has the humility of giving up the command in order to take on the modest position of a “worker in the vineyard of the Lord”, once again.

Father Barbieri leaves us

Father Barbieri dies in his room in Via De Lemene, on the 9th of December, surrounded by the friends of COOPI. His last words were: “remember the children”.


The project intends to teach adults living in the Archdiocese of Bukavu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo how to read, write and calculate. This program began with COOPI’s first volunteers and became a real developmental project in the 1990s, well organized, in partnership with the Bukavu Archdiocese. Now all 31 parishes have at least one literacy center.

Particularly interesting are activities carried out in some centres, always as part of the main program, that benefits girls and young women who have never received any kind of primary education and who have been victims of violence or directed to prostitution.

In these centres, other than to learn to read and write, the girls also undergo a professional activity that is of great significance for their social reintegration.



Barbieri always supported thousands of children whose families had difficulty in paying school rates as well as unaccompanied children, housed in religious institutes. By launching micro-projects, he enabled an integrated Child sponsorship in the Democratic Republic of Congo with the aim of supporting not only the children but also their families.

Father Barbieri became particularly attached to the Ek-Abana Center of Bukavu that accommodates young girls expelled by their families because they have been accused for sorcery, and children living on the road. To promote family reunification, the center instituted the Committees for the Protection of Childhood to inform families about the importance of educating and protecting children.

Nowadays there are 160 children in the Ek-Abana Center that can hope for a better future thanks to the child sponsorships.


Feelings of hope are deeply present in man and it gives him immense strength, which can be released within an individual in pain and difficulty, which at first glance seems impossible, that he, until then, ignored.


I experienced a crisis of consciousness: to leave or, to remain in order to organize this growing phenomenon, so that Africa would have dozens, perhaps hundreds of physicians, medical assistants, teachers, artisans, farmers… I chose the second solution


I began with Smeraldo Theater and through the megaphone I said: “while you go to amuse yourselves, give me something” and I handed over a flyer. I remained there until eleven/eleven thirty and I shouted once more: “Have you had fun? Now help the others”


Surely we are a drop in a sea of misery. But it is a drop falling down that helps to grow grass which can become a tree tomorrow, or many small patches of grass which grow together and reduce the size of the desert.


Padre Barbieri ultima modifica: 2015-03-03T14:15:04+00:00 da coopi