In 1954 a group of Milan academics and professionals created CELIM – Centro Laici Italiani per le Missioni (Centre for Italian Laypersons for the Missions) – with the aim of supporting diocesan missionary activities in the South of the world.
This is how our story began. The story of one of the first Italian non-governmental organizations.
Originally a spontaneous association movement, over the years CELIM has become more structured and has grown into an NGO recognized by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the European Union for the implementation of short- and medium-term programs in developing countries (DC), the selection, training and employment of volunteers, the on-site training of citizens of DCs and for information and development education activities.
The lay people intending to offer specific help to Catholic missions through moments of discussion, meetings on spirituality and community life experiences are getting trained; at the same time the collection and shipment of medicines and medical equipment as direct support of the missions were being organised.
The archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Montini, and Msgr. Bramati, head of the diocesan missionary office, also take an interest.
During the ’60s dozens of volunteers go to Africa, Asia and South America, no longer just medical staff but also teachers, engineers and surveyors. CELIM keeps growing, and a specialisation scholarship system for foreign students is developed; support groups are created in different cities of northern Italy (in 1964 the one in Bergamo became CELIM Bergamo, which is now an independent organisation).
The Association is officially registered with the court of Milan.
In the 80s CELIM begins to work on development education in Italy through public meetings and interventions in schools with the aim of informing and raising awareness.
Work is centred on fostering the emergence of the economic and political networks that link the Southern and the Northern hemisphere, everyone being invited to play an active role to promote real change and to welcome Others.
The Association adopts a more professional organizational structure and is approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to implement programs in developing countries.
CELIM decides to support international volunteering not just for individuals but also for families and young couples: families with children start leaving and their first children are born “in mission land”. 1984 sees the organisation of the conference on “Family and international volunteering. A bridge between different worlds and cultures: possible choice or utopia? “.
In the 90s new activities start in Africa, ranging from healthcare to agriculture, from vocational training to microcredit, but always based on a collaborative strategy: the emphasis is on the self-development of the beneficiaries and on the self-sustainability of projects, which partners must be able to manage independently once the work of CELIM is completed.
There is however awareness of the fact that a real development of the South without a change in mentality of the North is impossible.
2000 therefore saw the creation of CeliMondo, which will take the world into schools and people’s homes. In this educational space in the heart of Milan the NGO organizes educational courses and creative workshops for school groups and information sessions for all citizens.
The following year CELIM is also approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to carry out development education activities.
After 2010 times are hard, CELIM undergoes a substantial downsizing, in terms of both activities and staff. In Italy the CeliMondo space is closed in 2012 due to lack of funding; the activities of Education to World Citizenship however continue in classrooms and communal spaces, with intercultural or Italian as a second language courses.
The staff going abroad, meanwhile, is increasingly more professional and qualified.
CELIM blows 60 candles. In 60 years, more than 300 volunteers have gone abroad, to Africa in particular but also to Asia, South America and the Balkans. 60 years of commitment, projects and stories, inextricably linked to the lives of our volunteers.
CELIM, Ambassadors of Milan in the world: all the interviews carried out for the 60th anniversary
Today CELIM is backed by hundreds of donors, supported by a group of figures from the academic, business and religious world who share the Association’s values and guiding principles. It is supported by institutions, universities, companies and associations in Italy and in the countries in which it operates, aided by dozens of volunteers: people who believe in what we do and in how we do it.
CELIM is now part of FOCSIV-Volontari nel Mondo (Volunteers in the World), the largest federation of international Christian-inspired volunteer organizations, and CoLomba, the network of Lombardy NGOs.
Over the years, along with the transformation of its Structure – from a non-governmental association movement to non-governmental organisation – there has also been a change in the recipients, content and frequency of publication of CELIM’s magazine. Today it is sent to donors and supporters half-yearly, to bear witness with texts and pictures to what CELIM does, both in Italy and abroad.
CELIM is listed in Info Cooperazione, an authoritative point of reference in terms of reporting and transparency on NGOs and associations working in the field of co-operation and humanitarian aid.