The Way (Camino)
Below is the story of one of our enthusiastic supporters who took on himself a huge task which was to walk for two weeks as a pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela. We would like to thank you our friend John wholeheartedly for such a fantastic fundraising pilgrimage and for raising over than £3,300, although his target was £1,500. We are delighted to share with you his amazing story. John already inspired other people to do similar activities to support the ministry of Awareness Foundation and we are very grateful for all of them.
We hope that you would get inspired and do your own fundraising activity and support our work to impower young people in Syria and Iraq or our children’s programme in Syria.
Here is John’s Story:
Through shaded forests of spruce and oak, walking alongside ancient vineyards, or fields of golden buttercups and under the canopy of towering and scented eucalyptus trees. Up and down rocky mountainous hills and through small quiet Spanish villages and busy Cathedral towns. – Just some of the “feast of a landscape”, that is the last 300kms along the “Camino Frances” path, leading to the majestic Cathedral, in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, North West of Spain.
Last month, I embarked on this last stage, (for me), of the most well-known of several “Camino” routes. A network of ancient paths across Europe, all ending in this town, where reputedly relics of St James, had been laid to rest. I had started this route originally in 2017 walking it in two stages, (when I could get out there on a holiday), from St Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees, to Leon, (which was over 500km). However, lockdown had prevented me from completing this last 300 km section to now.
This time, I set off as the spring sun rose on the streets of another cathedral city, Leon, and I quickly found the familiar scallop shell symbols and yellow painted arrows, that guide the “pilgrims” along the way. Its probably safe to say its practically impossible to get lost on this route with these signs and a well-thumbed copy of a particular guidebook, that many of the hundreds of thousands who walk this every year, have close at hand. However, I will hold my hand up and admit that on one occasion while in deep conversation with a fellow walker, we missed one arrow that resulted in us somehow by-passing a town and walking an extra 5kms at the end of a particular strenuous and hot day.
I had gone out on my own to do this walk, as I am more than happy to be immersed in everything the countryside has to offer and didn’t feel alone with the bird song, distant noise of a tractor and the occasional greeting of other walkers saying “Buen Camino”. Much has been written on the benefits of walking; times to think, reflect and a temporary freedom from being overconnected, living in the digital age. Its all true. I love it! The Camino is a very special place whether sharing it with nature or with people from a whole spectrum of life, nationalities, ages, all with a common simple goal of putting on your boots in the morning, following the arrows, being outdoors and getting to the next place at the end of the day. Talking to people along the way, people came for many reasons, to reflect on, or recover from a relationship or job change, recovery from a health scare, contemplating a life change, but for many, for the sheer love of walking. At small cafes on route or evening restaurants, groups of walkers would share meals (of Galician delights like Octopus, home baked empanadas, and tortillas), cold beer, stories and laughter, (much laughter), that all helped overcame language barriers. – A real united nations.
As the numbers on the milestones reduced and we all got closer to our common destination, the sense of personal achievements was mixed by a sadness that it was coming to an end. Many of us crammed into the spectacular Cathedral for the daily “Pilgrims Mass” to give thanks to God to everything he created, much we had witnessed on route and our safe arrival, (albeit many of us with blisters and some sore limbs).
Over the last few years, through Nadim and Huda, I have learnt about the excellent work being achieved by the Awareness Foundation. Through reading the testimonies and stories of those on the Ambassadors for Peace and Little Heroes programmes, I wanted to try to contribute in a way I could from here at home in London. So, I felt doing my walk for the Charity might be a small contribution.
I would personally like to thank all those kind donors to my sponsor page for your generous donations and words of support. I’ve been overwhelmed by the response in us all raising over £3,300, for the Awareness Foundation, surpassing my expectation, and your kind words certainty helped spur me on, in some of the harder sections of the walk.
I think the comments left by the many sponsors on the web page, show that amongst my fellow Church members here in SW London, friends, and others who donated, I am not alone in the admiration and need of such a worthwhile Charity. Like walking on the Camino, there are many out there who have a common cause whether its peace and reconciliation, or walking a path together, – realising we have more in common with each other, than things that divide us.