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I’d like to hear from some Hospitaleros

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CarolG
Time of past OR future Camino
2014 Camino Frances: Burgos to Santiago
After having done several Caminos and appreciated the loving care provided by many Hospitaleros, I would like to do a volunteering stint(s) myself.

I know that I can get training through the American Pilgrims confraternity…and also that they do help with placement. But I’d also love to hear from those of you who have done this. How did you choose where to volunteer? How was it coordinated? What was your experience like?
 
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biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
I finished my training with APOC this past weekend near Colorado Springs along with 15 other pilgrims. It was very thorough and engaging, covering a multitude of topics. The two facilitators had had a variety of experiences to draw upon and presented an incredibly professional program.
Regarding placement, there is a session focused on applying for and facilitating volunteering opportunities for 2 week.
 

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CarolG
Time of past OR future Camino
2014 Camino Frances: Burgos to Santiago
I finished my training with APOC this past weekend near Colorado Springs along with 15 other pilgrims. It was very thorough and engaging, covering a multitude of topics. The two facilitators had had a variety of experiences to draw upon and presented an incredibly professional program.
Regarding placement, there is a session focused on applying for and facilitating volunteering opportunities for 2 week.
Thanks. Hoping to make the April training session
 

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Time of past OR future Camino
2019
My wife and I responded to a call for hospitaleros at the new albergue in Canfranc Pueblo (Camino Aragon). It is managed by the Spanish pilgrim association known as FICS - Rebekah Scott was our American contact person.

We found the experience to be very enjoyable, but it is certainly not for everyone. You personally cover the cost of getting there and your food for two weeks while working 18 hour stints (our place closed from 8am until 2pm) for 14 straight days. But that sucks hour “break” included cleaning the albergue and preparing it for the new pilgrims, so it’s essentially 24x7. We cleaned toilets, did dishes, washed sheets, mopped floors, and everything else required by a 19 bed inn (we only supplied a simple breakfast, so no cooking). We loved it and have returned and will be working again in 2023!

Each association and albergue has a different feel to it, so be sure of where you want to volunteer and the level of commitment it takes.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
06,CF;13,CP;17,SSal;19,Ingles
My wife and I responded to a call for hospitaleros at the new albergue in Canfranc Pueblo (Camino Aragon). It is managed by the Spanish pilgrim association known as FICS - Rebekah Scott was our American contact person.

We found the experience to be very enjoyable, but it is certainly not for everyone. You personally cover the cost of getting there and your food for two weeks while working 18 hour stints (our place closed from 8am until 2pm) for 14 straight days. But that sucks hour “break” included cleaning the albergue and preparing it for the new pilgrims, so it’s essentially 24x7. We cleaned toilets, did dishes, washed sheets, mopped floors, and everything else required by a 19 bed inn (we only supplied a simple breakfast, so no cooking). We loved it and have returned and will be working again in 2023!

Each association and albergue has a different feel to it, so be sure of where you want to volunteer and the level of commitment it takes.
A fair honest report. I have not been there, but have been in another albergue run by hosvol, and the duty is as you say, 24/7. The good thing, the really good thing about where I was: no distractions such as bars or tiendas or any other element except for the quiet and natural beauty of the location, far from town or city life. We did cook, though, as an evening meal is part of the offering. Hosvol places you, I am not sure if you can ask for a particular spot.
 
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michael blankschen

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Portuguese route, St Jean to La Grono (to be continued)
After having done several Caminos and appreciated the loving care provided by many Hospitaleros, I would like to do a volunteering stint(s) myself.

I know that I can get training through the American Pilgrims confraternity…and also that they do help with placement. But I’d also love to hear from those of you who have done this. How did you choose where to volunteer? How was it coordinated? What was your experience like?
Hi

I'm serving in Estella right now, and this is the 4th placement (bercianos, Samis and Ribadiso)- one if the best experiences of my life- training is great to take part in, and I kinda like to think of my volunteering as something like the Knight Errant, just let Chance decide where I go- only Ribadiso was somewhat boring
 
Time of past OR future Camino
August 2015
After having done several Caminos and appreciated the loving care provided by many Hospitaleros, I would like to do a volunteering stint(s) myself.

I know that I can get training through the American Pilgrims confraternity…and also that they do help with placement. But I’d also love to hear from those of you who have done this. How did you choose where to volunteer? How was it coordinated? What was your experience like?
 

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CarolG
Time of past OR future Camino
2014 Camino Frances: Burgos to Santiago
Hi

I'm serving in Estella right now, and this is the 4th placement (bercianos, Samis and Ribadiso)- one if the best experiences of my life- training is great to take part in, and I kinda like to think of my volunteering as something like the Knight Errant, just let Chance decide where I go- only Ribadiso was somewhat boring
Go forth, ye Templar Knight.
 
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CarolG
Time of past OR future Camino
2014 Camino Frances: Burgos to Santiago
We start our fifth Hospitalero placement tomorrow in Ribadiso. I have learned from and found joy in all five places. APOC training is great. When you find a place you would like to volunteer ask others what their impression was you will learn from their experience. Ultreya
Did you choose places where you had stayed before, or did you let them assign you as needed?
 

Geoff Shepherd

I’m the big fella on the left.
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances: 2018,19, 22 and planning for 23.
We start our fifth Hospitalero placement tomorrow in Ribadiso. I have learned from and found joy in all five places. APOC training is great. When you find a place you would like to volunteer ask others what their impression was you will learn from their experience. Ultreya
Cooee William, all the best from Australia.
 

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J Willhaus

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016, 2022
We usually just tell the HosVol coordinator when we will be in Spain and she just assigns us. This year we volunteered for FICS at Canfranc Pueblo so we contacted @Rebekah Scott here on the forum. I have been a hospitalero 4 times and my husband 5 times. Always somewhere new and different. This year we met a pilgrim who remembered us from a different albergue in 2018. Hard work, but very rewarding. Also gives you a sense of community in the smaller villages.
 
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LTfit

Veteran Member
I went through the Spanish Federation (HOSVOL) directly and Anaï the volunteer coordinator placed me where needed. I've been a hospitalera on the Francés in Grañón - the first and best, El Burgo Ranero, Ponferrada (2x), Nájera and Zamora on the Via de la Plata.

I combined the 2 week stint with walking, usually after volunteering.

It's tough work but definitely a worthwhile experience. Also a great way to practice your language skills.
 

nycwalking

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Ourense to Santiago (2019), CF: (2014, 2004, 2002, 2001). On to Fisterra, (2002, 4, 14).
In 2002 I was a hospie at San Nicolas Del Flüe in Ponferrada with Spanish Association.

In 2004, I volunteered at Guacelmo albergue in Rabanal Del Camino run by Confraternity of Saint James in UK.

It’s a 24/7 engagement but we’ll worth the effort.

Preparing beds, possible entertainment, and your listening ears for pilgrims is very rewarding for volunteers.

At San Nicolas Del Flüe there was a large tree in cemetery or open field, I forget which, next to albergue. After sundown, my Spanish co-hospie and I would usher pilgrims under tree branches. He would chant the incantation of the Queimada in his raspy voice while mixing the brew. Once drink was ready hospies, pilgrims, and Catholic priest who oversaw our albergue, would imbibe the fiery liquid. A creepy fun time.

B596E9A5-44D0-43A0-BA1B-DB02EC13C432.jpeg

Volunteering is labor intensive: washing sheets, mopping floors, cleaning toilets, purchasing supplies to run albergue, et cetera. At least it was in 2002 and 2004.

Try it.
 
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biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
I spoke with Rebecca a few years back and volunteered at San Anton.
It was incredible!
I volunteered at San Anton in 2017. It was an incredible experience. I worked with Oliver Kliot for 2 weeks and could not have done it without his tutoring.
 

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CarolG
Time of past OR future Camino
2014 Camino Frances: Burgos to Santiago
I went through the Spanish Federation (HOSVOL) directly and Anaï the volunteer coordinator placed me where needed. I've been a hospitalera on the Francés in Grañón - the first and best, El Burgo Ranero, Ponferrada (2x), Nájera and Zamora on the Via de la Plata.

I combined the 2 week stint with walking, usually after volunteering.

It's tough work but definitely a worthwhile experience. Also a great way to practice your language skills.
Thanks. My Spanish definitely needs some up skilling
 

biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
You have six months to work on your language skills; franglais and spanglsh are more than acceptable these days. I am moving to Portugal next year and learning conversational Portuguese on Babbel and will probably go to Duolingo, then do immersion classes once I move. Don’t let your fear of speaking a foreign language hold you back from volumteering
 
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CarolG
Time of past OR future Camino
2014 Camino Frances: Burgos to Santiago
You have six months to work on your language skills; franglais and spanglsh are more than acceptable these days. I am moving to Portugal next year and learning conversational Portuguese on Babbel and will probably go to Duolingo, then do immersion classes once I move. Don’t let your fear of speaking a foreign language hold you back from volumteering
My Spanish is about 40%, mi Spanglish es perfecto! Duolingo also has a podcast (outside of the app) which has interviews in intermediate Spanish— they may also have something for Portuguese as well.
 

J Willhaus

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016, 2022
My Spanish is about 40%, mi Spanglish es perfecto! Duolingo also has a podcast (outside of the app) which has interviews in intermediate Spanish— they may also have something for Portuguese as well.
We have worked at albergues for years with limited Spanish. Usually there are many languages spoken by pilgrims. Not all are Spanish at all. In Canfranc we met more French Speaking pilgrims so Google translate was our friend. Hospitality is a language of its own...do your best. It has taken me 6 years to be semi-proficient in Spanish. My husband served in a community last year with little Spanish. No one spoke English and he did fine. They loved him because he cared for the pilgrims and helped in what ever way he could in the community. It is about your spirit and desire to serve pilgrims that counts.
 

alwalker

Al WAlker
Time of past OR future Camino
many.

next ones- Via Francigena, San Salvador, Primitivo, Portuguese
After having done several Caminos and appreciated the loving care provided by many Hospitaleros, I would like to do a volunteering stint(s) myself.

I know that I can get training through the American Pilgrims confraternity…and also that they do help with placement. But I’d also love to hear from those of you who have done this. How did you choose where to volunteer? How was it coordinated? What was your experience like?
I volunteered for the first time this year and I got more out of it than I gave. So much so that I have in mind to volunteer twice next year. Hopefully on the Basque Atlantic coast and in the Pyrenees. The Portuguese ex monastery is privately run and I volunteered via the web site (They will train) I found my Sydney training (Confraternity of ST James) to be worthwhile as we had a couple of unusual things to deal with and it was easier because we had covered them with the training.
Council run and private albergues can be approached directly.
 

LTfit

Veteran Member
We have worked at albergues for years with limited Spanish. Usually there are many languages spoken by pilgrims. Not all are Spanish at all. In Canfranc we met more French Speaking pilgrims so Google translate was our friend. Hospitality is a language of its own...do your best. It has taken me 6 years to be semi-proficient in Spanish. My husband served in a community last year with little Spanish. No one spoke English and he did fine. They loved him because he cared for the pilgrims and helped in what ever way he could in the community. It is about your spirit and desire to serve pilgrims that counts.
It really depends where you volunteer. This definitely holds true for the Francés. I was placed in El Burgo Ranero with a Spanish woman from Avilés who only spoke Spanish. She wanted me to sign everyone in every day since she got very impatient with the non-Spanish speaking pilgrims. I on the other hand thoroughly enjoyed myself as I had the opportunity to speak 4 languages!

It is my understanding that HOSVOL tries to couple non-Spanish speaking hospis with one that does.
 

J Willhaus

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016, 2022
It really depends where you volunteer. This definitely holds true for the Francés. I was placed in El Burgo Ranero with a Spanish woman from Avilés who only spoke Spanish. She wanted me to sign everyone in every day since she got very impatient with the non-Spanish speaking pilgrims. I on the other hand thoroughly enjoyed myself as I had the opportunity to speak 4 languages!

It is my understanding that HOSVOL tries to couple non-Spanish speaking hospis with one that does.
Not always true and sometimes you are posted solo depending on the size of the albergue and the time of year. As our hospitalero trainers said, the answer to every question is almost always "es depende" or it depends... HosVol does endeavor to match and will often put inexperienced volunteers with experienced ones, but they have a wide variety of spots to fill on various caminos.

Some hospitaleros speak only their own language. I've met many Spanish hospitaleros who only speak Spanish. Some pilgrims only speak their own language as well, but it can be worked out. Phil has worked with hospitaleros who speak only Spanish and I have handed off or received handoffs from only Spanish speakers.

It is easier if you have some command of languages. One year we served pilgrims from 30 different countries in only 2 weeks which was a challenge to almost any polyglot!

We take Spanish lessons together every week when not in Spain and that keeps us on our toes for the annual service as hospitaleros.
 
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dick bird

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
After having done several Caminos and appreciated the loving care provided by many Hospitaleros, I would like to do a volunteering stint(s) myself.

I know that I can get training through the American Pilgrims confraternity…and also that they do help with placement. But I’d also love to hear from those of you who have done this. How did you choose where to volunteer? How was it coordinated? What was your experience like?
American Pilgrims should give you a list of people who place or employ volunteers in donativos - hosvol is the main one and they will give you a questionnaire to indicate what you can or can't do (or would rather not) e.g. drive, speak Spanish, cook etc. You can express a preference for a particular albergue but I feel it is more in the spirit of volunteering to go where they send you. It will almost certainly be one of the most positive experiences in your life. As a first timer, Anai of hosvol will probably try to send you somewhere where you will have some support, e.g. a larger albergue with other hospis. One point re Spanish - if you can at least master some of the courtesy language it will help enormously, not so much with pilgrims but more importantly with the local people you will be dealing with - they really appreciate it. Good luck.
 

HeidiL

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Francés (2004-), Portugués, Madrid, 4/5 Plata, 1/8 Levante, 1/8 Lana, Augusta, hospitalera Grado.
I did my training with Rebekah/FICS and have done two shifts in Grado and one in Nájera. The first couple of days can be quite hectic, but as you learn how to organize and plan, the cleaning gets faster and you can have some hours to yourself after the pilgrims have left for the day. While working, I have done cave tours, wine tastings, plenty of church tours and quite a few museums (having a rental car helps). The only thing that is difficult is having a Spanish lunch - because when the restaurants open, the pilgrims arrive. Still, it is possible to eat while the other hospitalero/a works. Or just cook on your own, of course - I've done a lot of cooking in closed albergues while the sheets were drying.
 

HeidiL

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Francés (2004-), Portugués, Madrid, 4/5 Plata, 1/8 Levante, 1/8 Lana, Augusta, hospitalera Grado.
Come to think of it, can anyone direct me to a list of the albergues manned by HOSVOL?
 

J Willhaus

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016, 2022
Come to think of it, can anyone direct me to a list of the albergues manned by HOSVOL?
They don't have one on their website. When we had training in 2017, we were given a list current at the time. Some have changed since. Maybe someone with current training from this year has the updated list. I could ramble off some communities, but it would not be complete or accurate.
 
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CarolG
Time of past OR future Camino
2014 Camino Frances: Burgos to Santiago
American Pilgrims should give you a list of people who place or employ volunteers in donativos - hosvol is the main one and they will give you a questionnaire to indicate what you can or can't do (or would rather not) e.g. drive, speak Spanish, cook etc. You can express a preference for a particular albergue but I feel it is more in the spirit of volunteering to go where they send you. It will almost certainly be one of the most positive experiences in your life. As a first timer, Anai of hosvol will probably try to send you somewhere where you will have some support, e.g. a larger albergue with other hospis. One point re Spanish - if you can at least master some of the courtesy language it will help enormously, not so much with pilgrims but more importantly with the local people you will be dealing with - they really appreciate it. Good luck.
Thanks for the info. I can definitely get by in Spanish, just not fluent
 

dick bird

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
Thanks for the info. I c

Thanks for the info. I can definitely get by in Spanish, just not fluent
That’s about my level. It was good to talk to the local people who actually run the albergues and get an insight into the Camino infrastructure.
 

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Time of past OR future Camino
Many, various, and continuing.
For those who'd like to volunteer with FICS in 2023: I make up the schedules in December 2022.
We run municipal albergues in Grado, Asturias (16 beds, donativo); Canfranc Pueblo, Aragon (16 beds, donativo); and Najera, La Rioja (48 beds, 6 euros). Each has its own personality and vibe. We are working on a training thing, but for now we place newbies with experienced hospitaleros. For people coming from afar, we will next year experiment with 10-day hospi assignments rather than full two-week quincenas, to better fit with travel and work schedules.
Get in touch for details. Rebrites (at) yahoo . com
 
Time of past OR future Camino
2022
Thanks for the info. I can definitely get by in Spanish, just not flue
Hi Carol - I have volunteered through FICS at all 3 locations--Grado, Najera and Canfranc and plan on being a hospi again in 2023. What I love about the experience is that it really adds another layer to your Camino experience. It's wonderful to be able to give back by assisting peregrinos and you're always given an opportunity to continue your Camino lessons!
 
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