Who We Are

History

Fifty years on, we still believe in our strategy.

On 15 April 1965 Father Barbieri founded COOPI. This was to be the start of a journey spanning fifty years during which COOPI and Italian international cooperation, in all their various aspects, have expanded and transformed themselves. Yet COOPI’s story begins before 1965 – in 1961, in fact, when Vincenzo Barbieri, a young Jesuit priest, was sent by his superiors to study at the Faculty of Theology in Lyon, France, with a view to going to Chad as a missionary. Barbieri found the cultural environment in France to be much more lively and open than the one he experienced in provincial Italy in the years prior to the Second Vatican Council. In Lyon he came into contact with international secular movements which had been engaged in voluntary work in developing countries for many years. In 1962, Barbieri turned down the opportunity to depart as a missionary himself and returned to Milan with the intention of training volunteers to depart for countries in the Global South. he introduced the secular component into missionary activities.

1965-2015: 50 years of COOPI – the most important stages

Italy
1965

Italy

Cooperazione Internazionale was established. Father Barbieri trained and sent laics abroad for missions which lasted at least 2 years.

Italy
1966

Italy

COOPI contributed to the drawing up of the Pedini Law which instituted the Community Service in the developing countries.

Malta
1976

Malta

The first project funded by the Italian government was set-up. The use of public funds transformed COOPI from a voluntary to a professional association.

Somalia
1980

Somalia

The Ogaden crisis in Somalia pushed COOPI to set-up its first humanitarian aid project.

Italy
1993

Italia

COOPI was one of the first European NGOs to sign a deal of partnership with the European Commission's Department of Humanitarian Aid.

RWANDA
1994

Rwanda

In Congo, COOPI prepared itself to receive the population fleeing genocide and 15 thousand children separated from their parents during the exodus.

Sierra Leone and Former-Yugoslavia
1999

Sierra Leone and Former-Yugoslavia

COOPI began assisting ex-child soldiers in Sierra Leone and participated in “Missione Arcobaleno”.

Democratic Republic of Congo
2002

Democratic Republic of Congo

COOPI experimented the “community therapeutic cure” to save children from malnutrition. This emergency approach would later be adopted as governmental protocol.

Ecuador
2004

Ecuador

In Ecuador, COOPI launched its first “Disaster Risk Reduction” project.

Italy
2005

Italy

COOPI and Father Barbieri received a special mention in the Peace Prize in the Lombardy Region and the Certificate of Civic Merit of the Municipality of Milan.

Bolivia
2007

Bolivia

COOPI inaugurated the inter-cultural approach that would be adopted by the State in order to promote indigenous health and justice.

Central African Republic
2010

Repubblica Centroafricana

COOPI contributed to the process of ratifying the ILO 169 convention on the rights of indigenous populations.

Malawi
2011

Malawi

To reduce the risk of disaster, the Country was mapped using mobile and satellite technology while actively involving the local communities.

Ethiopia
2014

Ethiopia

The government awarded the NGO's access to renewable energies project for the extremely high benefits it provided to the community.

Italy
2015

Italy

COOPI celebrated 50 years. In occasion of this important anniversary, COOPI presented its 2015-2020 Strategy and it published its first report focused on Social Accountability.

Lake Chad and Middle East
2016

Lake Chad and Middle East

COOPI faces crises with an integrated regional approach.

Supporting refugees from Lybia
2017

In order to provide psychological support to persons seeking asylum and refugees evacuated from Libya, COOPI starts to collaborate with UNHCR in Niger on the ETM programme (Emergency Transit Mechanism).

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Father Barbieri

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.

padre barbieri

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.

Ho solo seguito il vento

"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».

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