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International Humanitarian Project-Dayspring Children’s Village

In 2013 Rotarian Ruth Konig, accompanied by Robyn Kirby, walked the Camino to raise money for Dayspring Children’s Village in South Africa.  The following is Ruth's final report on their pilgrimage.

THERE AND BACK AGAIN

PILGRIMS’ PROGRESS SIX – THE FINAL REPORT

Santiago! We made it!

After almost two months of walking, we arrived in Santiago on October 23rd. We could hardly believe that we had done it! This is an incredibly joyous town. Every day hundreds of pilgrims complete their Camino and are filled with a sense of positive achievement. The cathedral is filled to overflowing for two services each day. Free of backpacks , friends from the track gather and celebrate. It is only in the next few days that the reflection and evaluation begin.

  Hard to describe the adventure of a lifetime, but the statistics tell part of the story. Between 850 and 900 kilometers and 47 days. The ‘Way’ is demanding physically, mentally and spiritually. We met pilgrims of all ages and nationalities, all colours and creeds. And in the many discussions, many and varied motives emerged. In answer to the most frequent question, yes, this is a life changing experience.

Physically, the Camino is hard. It is really not possible to prepare for the ‘day after day’ aspect. Fitness does improve and there are days that are simply a pleasure, but weather and the condition of the track can create challenges. The end of a day can also require that final effort to locate accommodation which may be several kilometers away.  Blisters and joint pain are common and most walkers will take a day off after five or six Days. Yet of the many we encountered, few gave up . There is a positive driving force at work that is difficult to define, but keeps the feet on the track.

Mental adjustment takes a little longer. There is little time for the usual tourist activity, but a great deal of time while walking to just think. Eventually the internal voice shifts from daily necessities to larger questions.  The spiritual impact is linked with this. It takes very little time to recognize that the nature of pilgrimage always was and still is linked with medieval Christianity. If you do get off track it is easy to look for a steeple.  The track usually visits the local church and much accommodation for travelers is in the same area. Even the least religious acknowledge that the centuries old places of worship and works of art make a lasting impression. Most are located in the older parts of towns and villages and it can feel as if you have stepped back through centuries.

Highlights of the trip were often the classic Camino images; the iron statues, the Iron Cross, the many ancient memorial crosses, the cathedral in Santiago.  Camino friends form a fellowship which is another highlight. A backpack with the Camino shell is a passport into the general conversation in any bar or café. For me the Atlantic coast at Finnisterre – the end of the world – was the true end of the Camino.  There is the Atlantic, majestic and awe inspiring, stretching away – until America.

So yes the Pilgrimage is a formative experience. It is not so much a mystic or external influence as a new way of looking at the baggage you bring with you. This may explain the numbers of pilgrims we met who were completing it for a second or third time.

 The great adventure has also realized my sponsorship goal to a very pleasing extent.  I visited Dayspring Childrens’ Village on the way home and reaffirmed my confidence in this project. The Rotary Clubs of Yea and Rustenburg Kloof are now in a position to apply for a Global Grant. I would be very happy to speak at clubs and schools on both the Pilgrimage and the Dayspring Childrens’ Village as there have been several expressions of interest in both of these.

If you would like to contribute, the simplest way is to send a cheque to the Rotary club of Yea, C/O Yea Post Office Vic 3717. The generous support makes all the effort worthwhile.

 

 

Dayspring Children’s Village in South Africa.

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