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Announcing Ribadiso Welcome Service 2020 In Need of Volunteers


Deleted member 67185

As members of American Pilgrims On Camino (APOC), some of you may already have received this email announcement. I thought that since we have Forum members periodically express a desire for Camino volunteer work, there may be general interest to help with this project here.

Announcing Ribadiso Welcome Service 2020!

American Pilgrims Ribadiso volunteers have served thousands of pilgrims at Ribadiso in ways such as the ones described below. As one volunteer observed, often what seems to us a small, unmemorable experience can make a big difference to a pilgrim.

* * * * *

An American family told me to watch for a 91 year old man from Burma who was walking alone. His wife died in February, and they hoped I would watch out for him. A little while later, I saw the man, looking lost, on the bridge and asked him if he was from Burma. He was so surprised I knew about him. He was on his way to Arzúa but wanted to come in for a rest. We showered him with attention, and he was so grateful he had tears in his eyes. We walked with him to Arzúa to make sure he got to his hotel. He talked about his life, his wife and how his daughter died last August. He was so tired, and the directions to his hotel were not clear. We ended up in a restaurant with the same name as his hotel. The restaurant owner also owned the hotel, but it was a few blocks away. I told him that the Burmese man was tired, that he needed his room. The owner called the hotel car to pick him (and us) up, and the Burmese gentleman was given a bottle of cold water to tide him over. A Mercedes drove up the door and took him to his hotel. This man was so grateful he couldn’t stop saying thank you and hugging us.

Ribadiso Volunteer, 2018

I gave a pilgrim who spoke no Spanish my pen so that he could write in his journal. He claimed this was huge.

Ribadiso Volunteer, 2019

* * * * *

If you would like to be part of contributing to other pilgrims’ Camino with similar small acts of kindness, we invite you to consider volunteering in the Ribadiso Welcome Service.

Volunteering at Ribadiso is a unique experience. Volunteers care for pilgrims by welcoming them to the albergue and being available to assist them during their stay. Because of the way albergues are managed in Galicia, volunteers have more free time to engage with the local population, explore or work on their own projects than they may have with other volunteer opportunities. The Ribadiso Welcome Service began when the Xacobeo, the government agency in Galicia that administers Camino activities, invited American Pilgrims on the Camino to send volunteers to Ribadiso. 2020 is the sixth year of the program.

The historic albergue and one-time pilgrim hospital at Ribadiso is located on the Camino Francés about 40 kilometers before Santiago de Compostela in the verdant Galician countryside. It is one of the network of albergues in Galicia that are operated by the Xunta de Galicia, the regional government. Ribadiso is a small village that has the public albergue, a private albergue, a pilgrim pensión and a bar where pilgrims can eat.

Who is eligible to volunteer?

Volunteers must be members of American Pilgrims on the Camino and be in good health and physical condition
. Volunteer hospitalero training or experience in the former or current welcome programs in Santiago is helpful but not a requirement. Spanish language skills are highly recommended – unless you are serving with a Spanish speaker. Abilities in other languages are a plus.

What would I do as a Ribadiso volunteer?

Volunteer duties include, but are not limited, to the following:

  • Welcome pilgrims, i.e., greet them, offer them a glass of water, show them to their bunks;
  • Answer their questions, provide information about the immediate area and Santiago (for example, what time is Mass in Arzúa?, where is the Pilgrims’ Office in Santiago?);
  • Offer a listening ear to pilgrims who wish to tell you about the joys and sorrows of their journey;
  • Help resolve problems (within reason), such as “I’m having my backpack carried by a service, and it hasn’t arrived yet. Can you help me find it?”
  • Help regular staff with light housekeeping duties, such as removing disposable sheets and pillowcases in the morning, disposing of trash pilgrims have left on the floor and light sweeping of the dormitory floors before staff comes in to clean.
  • Keep daily pilgrim census to track numbers of pilgrims.
Volunteers are not hospitaleros in the traditional sense but are there to complement the work of paid staff and serve as one pilgrim to another. Volunteers are not in charge of the albergue but rather offer their services in collaboration with the paid staff.

What would I NOT do as a Ribadiso volunteer?

You would not do the following:
  • Clean the albergue;
  • Register pilgrims;
  • Collect fees (pilgrims are charged €8 per day, standard for all Xunta albergues)
  • Cook for pilgrims or organize pilgrim meals;
  • Hold prayer services or other spiritual get-togethers.
What is the albergue like?

The albergue, originally a 15th century pilgrim hospital, is located on the banks of the River Iso and is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful albergues on the entire Camino. It has 60 beds, plus 4 additional beds reserved for handicapped pilgrims and a large camping area for pilgrims who carry their own tents. The albergue has ample bathroom and shower facilities, plus coin-operated washers and dryers and abundant clothes lines.

Ribadiso is part of the network of albergues in Galicia, all of which are operated by the Xacobeo, the regional government agency in charge of Camino matters in that region. Unlike albergues in most other parts of the country, the Xacobeo contracts with local people who register pilgrims, collect fees and clean the albergue.

Who pays my expenses?

Expenses for travel to/from Ribadiso, food and incidentals while you are there are your responsibility. American Pilgrims on the Camino provides a stipend to each team to cover the cost of hard candy, water cups and clothespins that we ask volunteers to make available for pilgrims. There is no shop or market in Ribadiso, but supplies and groceries can be purchased in Arzúa, which is 3 kilometers away.

Where will I stay?

Volunteer accommodation is in a comfortable, well-furnished two-bedroom apartment at the albergue. The apartment has its own kitchen and bathroom, a sitting area and a dining table. Only volunteers in the program may stay in the apartment – no guests please -- and only during their time of service.

When could I go?

American Pilgrims will provide volunteers in 2020 from May 15 to October 15. Volunteers must commit for 15-day periods, either the first or second half of the month. Volunteers need to arrive the day before their service begins. A maximum of two volunteers is needed for each period.

Is this a fit for me?

Because the paid staff handles the mechanics of operating the albergue, you will have several hours of personal time, especially in the morning before the albergue opens at 1 p.m.

If you thrive on the intense experience of being “on” 24/7 while multi-tasking, organizing a meal and a spiritual service, this is NOT for you. We recommend instead that you become a trained hospitalero and serve at one of the albergues of the Spanish Federation or other organization.

How do I apply?

If you would like to apply for the Ribadiso Welcome Service, please contact to request an application. The application process includes a telephone interview with the program coordinators. Completed applications must be received by February 20. Interviews will take place and volunteers will be selected and notified no later than April 1.
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