You might have heard that 2010 is a Jubilee Year on the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage route that filters into Spain from all over Europe. The number of walking pilgrims is expected to double to 200,000, all because St. James‘ Day falls on a Sunday. Demand won’t only be running high for beds: More hospitaleros (volunteer innkeepers) will be needed to care for pilgrims along the route.
If you’ve walked the Camino, you’re eligible to volunteer as a hospitalero. (If you haven’t, maybe you can pass this information on to a friend who has?) The Federación Española de Asociaciones de Amigos del Camino de Santiago administers the bulk of volunteer hospitalero opportunities, but requires that all volunteers train at a Federación-approved hospitalero course.
The process, simplified:
Walk Camino > Train > Apply to Federación > Get Assignment > Volunteer in Spain
Here are some upcoming training sessions:
March 12 – 14, 2010 in Monteriggioni, Siena (for Italians only). Contact: movimentolento |at| itineraria.eu. Information (in Italian).
March 16 – 18, 2010 at The San Pedro Center in Winter Park, Florida. Contact: Daniel DeKay, hospitaleros |at| americanpilgrims.com. Information here. (Another training session for Fall 2010 is in the works…)
April 23 – 25, 2010 in Logroño. May 7 – 9 in Pobeña (Vizcaya). May 28 – 30 in Cercedilla (Madrid). Contact: hosvol |at| caminosantiago.org. Information (in Spanish).
Volunteer opportunities are also negotiable by applying directly to the owners of a refugio rather than to the Federación, such as the CSJ for postings at Gaucelmo and Miraz, above.
I volunteered in 2007 after training in the U.S. Being a hospitalero not only offers a chance to reciprocate for the aid you received as a pilgrim, but gives a rare glimpse behind the scenes at the mechanics and magic that sustain the route. (Disclosure: The folks running the U.S. and Canada courses are friends. And they rock.)
If you don’t have the time or money to train, you can go to Spain and walk the Camino until you find a hospitalero who could use a hand. This option is easier than you might think, and is my recommended method for volunteering if you haven’t walked the route before.
Lastly, I might be wrong about the demand for hospitaleros. There could be a matching rise in volunteer applications this year. Even if you don’t find a spot in 2010, remember: The Camino’s been here for 1300 years. It’s not going anywhere.
I’ll take a shot at any questions in the comments section. If you know of other training sessions, please share! And if you haven’t walked the Camino, next week I’ll post about the route’s many vagabonding options.