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Juvenile Penitent pilgrims


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Oikoten (a Greek word with a double meaning - ‘away from home, away from your native country’ and ‘by your own force or by your own means’) is also the name of an organisation in Belgium that deals with troubled teenagers and juvenile delinquents.
In 1982 Oikoten introduced pilgrimage to Santiago as an alternative of incarceration of minor delinquents. The Oikoten pilgrimage gives these youngsters an opportunity to prove that they can be released by the juvenile court and integrated into normal society.
The young people have to sign a contract:
1. to walk every inch by foot
2. to respect the law
3. to leave behind personal stereo and GSM
4. to avoid behaviour that endangers the hike.
You can help these youngsters by becoming a ‘guardian angel’ through the Ultreia Walk On programme. Log onto this website to find out how you can sponsor a pilgrim or even help a troubled youth apply to become a sponsored pilgrim. ... or_en.html
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Here are links to a number of articles and Youtube clips featuring associations Oikoten and Seuil.


Oikoten -Belgium

Albe in association with Oikoten

Seuil -France


New Internationalist Magazine: Redemption Road. July 1, 2012 by Adam Weymouth

The Guardian: Youth offenders should take a hike. 14 April, 2009 by Rob Williams

Studies in Spanish


Lode Walgrave. Restorative Justice for Juveniles: Potentialities, Risks and Problems (Samenleving, criminaliteit & stratfrechtspleging). Leuven University Press (April 1999)
Pages 368- santiago&f=false


an introduction to Oikoten

an introduction to Seuil
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some and then more. see my signature.
Flemish government stopped ALL subsidies due to economical recession and different " priorities ". ... d=JF3PQGAI
This was the main source of income for Oikoten, especially for their long haul projects like the Camino walks. So Oikoten is now busy thinking about a new revised schedule for 2013. At this moment calls for new volunteers are on hold.

Like Oikoten says in their newsletter : " Nothing will ever be the same ". ... 092012.pdf

One of the original Oikoten people , now a retired warden from a belgian juvenile detention centre, resides in SdC and he prides himself that he was waiting for them when one of the pupils and their mentor arrived in SdC. He was one of the first who saw the full potential in those troubled youngsters.


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hI Fraluchi,

There are indeed ( and have been the last twenty years ) alternative " routes " by Oikoten. Walking through Poland, Switzerland, farm work in France.
Reading a book now about and from the people at Oikoten : the young boys and girls ( especially those guys who walked in the early eighties , wow! ), the volunteers, the families and carers who stayed behind, the professionals. Lovely and touching reading material.
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some and then more. see my signature.
Cheers Jochen, very interesting. Must add though that not all youngsters at Oikoten have a criminal past, lots of them are merely in a " problematic family situation ". So not all kids have to pass through juvenile court to enter the project.

Also : most volunteers are everything BUT social workers because they tend to see the youngster in a professional way and will go into " social worker " modus. Volunteers can be civil servants, teachers, housewives, businessmen, hairdressers : as long as you don't expect much, keep an open mind, can handle all kind of emotions . Volunteers must go through a serious screening.
And of course judges of juvenile courts will never send a high risk youngster on a Camino.
But rest assured : Belgium is still a country with a good welfare system and overall are kids are doing great!
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I met a volunteer and his charge on the del Norte in 2011 and chatted with them on and off for a few daysbetween Bilbao and Laredo. Having heard of this programme some time ago, I looked at it with a sympathetic grain of salt but, after conversations with both the volunteer and the kid, I became most impressed. Clearly week after week of walking, deprived of internet and cellphone, free of peer group pressure, focussing on basic needs, and with time both to think, and not to think, has an incredibly salutary effect. The kid had used a 3-day pass to go to a relative's funeral in Belgium and, during his brief stay, had met with his old girlfriend who, he said, claimed that she could recognize the pre-walk adolescent. "Is this a good thing, or a bad thing," I asked; and he replied that it was a very good thing.

Obviously, it's not going to work for everyone, but for many troubled and/or misbehaving teenagers, I cannot think of a better way forward. I am sorry that the grants are drying up and would hope that the Belgians, among their challenges, re-evaluate their decision.
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I once saw a documentary about that, a camera followed a small group of troubled teenagers from Belgium as they were walking the Camino.

Alan Pearce

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When I was a hospitalero at Miraz on the del Norte some months ago we had 3 young Spanish offendere and a warder/carer stay with us. The chap in charge had done 8 caminos so was a natural choice for his position. I can give no more details of their journey, as when I have worked with prison inmates in Australia the first rule was never to ask too much about their personal stories! The carer informed us about their situation just as a matter of courtesy, and while thay kept very much to themselves in the albergue, they were polite young men and a pleasure to have stay with us.

There are programs in Australia that take young people who are basically living on the street to walk the Kakoda Track in Papua/New Guinea. This is an 8 day walk of considerable difficulty, which was the site of heavy combat during WW2. The youngsters who go are considered to be in danger of ending up in gaol, but have not yet spent time there.

Happy new year to all - see you in Sept/Oct.


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Hiking towards the future :
Documentary about long distance walking as a modern method of social work with offenders and NEET's. A project of the University of Applied Sciences Dresden (FHD) with the partners ALBA (Belgium), SEUIL (France), L'Oasi and Lunghi Camini (Italy) as well as the Benno House in Bautzen and the Saxon Youth Foundation Dresden. Between Ages: Network for young offenders and NEET


J Willhaus

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We hosted a young man and his mentors twice in 2017 at Zamora. The lad had misbehave and was taken home for further judgement. On or about Christmas Day, late in the evening there was a rap at the door and there stood Marco with a new mentor. The judge had given him another chance and he seemed a different boy. You can read the full account in the hospitaleros to thread called Waiting for pilgrims in Zamora from 2017.

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In Rionegro del Puente A few months ago, i was very surprised to learn that the earnest young man and his stunningly beautiful companion were a young offender and his mentor from the French Seuil organization.

it’s a good thing that the scheme is limited to juveniles. If it weren’t, I might be tempted to commit a few minor crimes in Paris to get myself on the program.

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