BRAZIL: 67 youth volunteers with Operation Mato Grosso spend 6 months providing support to those in need in 3 villages
(MissionNewswire) Sixty-seven youth volunteers with the Salesian-run Operation Mato Grosso spent six months working in three villages, São Pedro, São José and São Gabriel, in the Brazilian states of Goiás, Tocantins and Mato Grosso. Father de Oliveira, who helped coordinate the work, recalled, “The important thing is that every activity was a gesture of love. And this love is a small seed that will bear much fruit.”
Among many activities, volunteers worked in the village of São Pedro renovating the school, and repairing homes of missionaries and the roofs of houses and the church. In the village of São Gabriel, volunteers repaired a building that had been destroyed by a fire a few weeks before. The volunteers also helped repair a medical facility in the village of São José.
Clemílson, a young volunteer, was assigned to work at a boarding school for young Xavantes, a local indigenous group. Clemílson considers himself privileged to have lived this experience, which was extremely enrichening. He said, “We often talk about poverty and it is only in theory. When we have the grace to work in the villages, we can see this reality. We are lucky because we do something good for those who really need it.”
Ursula and Pietro are both Italian volunteers who spent six months serving the poor in oratories and boarding schools. Both recognize that the experience of helping those in need has been transformative for them. Ursula said, “I did charity, I helped clean the old people’s home, I talked to them, I kept them company. I am very grateful for this experience that I will always carry in my heart.”
Ivan, who is from Peru, had met the founder and spiritual guide of Operation Mato Grosso, Father Ugo De Censi, who passed away in December 2018. Ivan explained, “For me, the volunteer experience was something beautiful because I never had the opportunity to see this reality, let alone live it.”
Salesian missionaries in Brazil provide education, workforce development and social services throughout the country and specifically focus on children with disabilities within several programs. Missionaries help to meet the basic needs of poor youth, including street children, and provide them with an education and life skills to gain employment, break the cycle of poverty and lead productive lives.
The World Bank estimates that about 28.6 million Brazilians moved out of poverty between 2004 and 2014. But from the start of 2016 to the end of 2017, the World Bank estimates that 2.5 million to 3.6 million have fallen back below the poverty line earning less than 140 Brazilian reais per month. Economists blame high unemployment, near 13 percent, and cuts to key social welfare programs for challenges in the country.
Issues of income inequality and social exclusion remain the root causes for those in poverty. Inequalities also exist in access to education and educational efficiency. These inequalities are greatest for children and youth who are poor, live in rural areas or who have an incomplete compulsory education. Salesians working with poor youth and their families in Brazil develop programs and provide youth with opportunities for furthering their education and skills.
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Salesian Missions – Brazil
World Bank – Brazil