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Volunteering in the Pilgrim Office at Santiago...

Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
#1
Over the past several months, several fellow Forum members have asked individually about how to go about offering their services as volunteers (voluntarios) at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago. Each time, I have replied. In addition, I provided much of this information in direct replies within varied postings.

However, the number of individual inquiries has recently risen to the point where I think a good, general posting that is easily searchable would be appropriate. So, here it is. I took the most recent Private Message (PM) I shared with another Forum member as the basis for this post.

I have had the privilege of working there for the past four years and plan to serve again for a month this summer (2018). So, if you are so motivated, I can certainly point you in the right direction.

First, and as others have asked me, religion is not a prerequisite. Although I am a Cradle Catholic myself, I am not aware that this has ever been a requirement. Having done at least one Camino IS a baseline requirement. They prefer volunteers who can both talk the talk and have walked the walk.

Second, as regards language skills, more is better, and Spanish is most preferred. But they will consider anyone with some skills in that area.

The language need also depends on the time of year you seek to volunteer. For example, if you work in the latter half of July and during August, Spanish is more highly valued as the percentage of arriving volunteers who speak Spanish as a first language is huge. From May until mid-July, the mix is more varied and other European languages are relatively more helpful.

For reference, to improve my survival level pilgrim Spanish, I use a Pimsleur CD course with 30 lessons that I repeat in cycle. I also use Duolingo.com every day to reinforce the spoken lessons. Each time I volunteer, my Spanish comprehension improves. I am very much a work in progress...

Third, as regards the actual process of becoming a volunteer / voluntario at the Pilgrim Office, I am repeating the content of previous posts as general post to all the forum readers who might be similarly interested. Here it is:

"To answer those who are interested in becoming Pilgrim Office volunteers / voluntarios, here is the procedure:

1. Write an e-mail to Sra. Montse Díaz at:

(NOTE: 'Mohn-say' is short for 'Monserrat,' a traditional woman's name in some provinces of Spain.)

info@acogidacristianaenelcamino.es

The message must be in Spanish. Introduce yourself. Indicate how many and which Caminos you have done, and when. I use the Microsoft BIng translator for best results.

2. Explain your level of Spanish spoken. Mine is basic, but I can communicate adequately.

3. Offer your services as a voluntario for a period of not less than two weeks. The cycle is from (about) 1 - 15 of the month, and 16 - 30/31 of each month, depending on the month.

Information of interest:

Office work schedules start on Mondays.

Volunteers generally work six days out of seven. Every volunteer has a "dia libre" (day-off). That day off can vary from week to week.

The standard daily work shifts for volunteers are: 10:00 - 15:00 and 15:00 - 20:00. This fits into the work shifts for the full-time staff. They start earlier and end later.

The 'season' starts at Easter (Semana Santa) and runs through the end of September. The "peak season" is about 15 June - 15 September. That is when voluntarios are most needed.

The weather in Santiago during June - September is equivalent to the winter months in South Florida where I live. That is to say DELIGHTFUL! That is one big reason I come to help when I do. The sun is warm, but the humidity is low. NIghts can be chilly. Rain is sparse. But, I would come anyway, and will as often as they invite me back.

You pay to get here and back, and to feed yourself. The volunteer coordinating group ACC (Acogida Cristiana en el Camino) provides free lodging.

Fluency in Spanish is not necessary, but some knowledge is. Volunteers who can converse in Spanish, or other needed languages, find themselves working behind the counter interviewing arriving pilgrims from all over the world and issuing Compostelas.

Folks like me, with a more rudimentary knowledge of Spanish, end up doing other supporting work that helps the rest of the staff, paid and volunteer, remain effective. The word around the office is that: "Tomas will do ANYTHING that is legal if you ask. If it is 'sketchy,' you need to ask real nice..."

That said, since I returned last August, I have been doing and repeating my Pimsleur CD Spanish course, using www.duolingo.com online, and listening to a series of university lectures about Spain. When I complete the courses, I repeat them...again and again...

Remember, the pilgrim flat does have an equipped kitchen, so you can shop and cook if you choose. They provide housing.

The pilgrim flat also has a washing machine, but no dryer. You spin the clothes as much as you can, then hang them on a folding drying rack. I employ 'batchelor ironing.' That is spin the clothes out using the machine, snap them open and hang on a hanger to dry. Presto! No wrinkles!

As from last September, the P/O has a new flat in a VERY historic building. All the above notes apply here. This, former vicarage, is located in the nearly 900 year-old Convento de Santa Clara de Asis (Convent of Saint Clare of Assisi), on Rua de San Roque. It has five bedrooms and three bathrooms, two kitchens, and a large salon or living room. It enjoys a marvelous overlook of the old city and the Cathedral, and is a 10-minute uphill walk from the Pilgrim Office. Google it... I toured the building before they actually took legal possession last year. It is fabulous!

Now is the time to toss your hat in the ring. Once we are into March, they have all their plans made. Remember, the early bird... I will walk into Santiago again in the second half of April. Usually, this is when I greet my old friends at the Pilgrim Office and elsewhere in Santiago, and arrange my specific dates. As soon as I return home, I make my travel arrangements.

Feel free to ask further questions. Oh, and tell Monste in your e-mail that: "Thomas, el grande Norteamericano con la barba" sent you... That is 'the big American with the beard...' I grew it on Camino last year and the family directed me to keep it.

Hope this helps.

Best regards,

Tom
 
Last edited:

Sailor

Donante Vitalicio
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Infinito
#3
Muchas Gracias Mister Tom for this information. I have bookmarked this one for future reference. Buena suerte,y que la luz de Dios alumbre su camino.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Astorga to Santiago (2017)
St. Jean PdP to Burgos (2018)
Planing Meseta (2019)
#4
Thank you for the very informative post. Question - Do volunteers have to stay for a specific amount of time, ie 3 weeks, etc? Also, are their age requirements, ie 18 years old and over?
 

ophelia

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Português Central - October 2017
Planning the Camino Português da Costa - May 2018!
#5
Great post, would love to volunteer there! My mother tongue is Portuguese and I know a bit of Spanish so maybe with some practice that would not be a problem.
 

ELHS220

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés - 2015
Francés - 2017
Norte (Oviedo Costa) - 2018
Finisterre/Muxía - 2018
#6
I applied last fall, following Tom's instructions, and I just received my acceptance about a week ago. My volunteer period will be June 11-25. I am now in the process of making plans for the "before" and "after" period. I am leaning toward doing the Camino del Norte from Oviedo to its connection into the Francés at Arzúa, and on into Santiago during the three weeks before, and then doing the Santiago-Finisterre-Muxia-Santiago route in the three weeks after. I have yet to book a flight, but it will be in the May 15-July 15 time frame. Photography is my "big thing", so I refuse to walk on days of steady rain. Hopefully this schedule will give me a sufficient number of days to wait out any "non-walkable" ones. I did the Francés in 2015 and again in 2017, so these two would give me my third and fourth Compostela.

One more question for poor Tom. I was going to ask you about the living quarters, but you have covered everything I had in mind except one thing. Does the apartment have individual twin beds or is it the dreaded bunk beds?
 
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
#7
All the beds were individual European style twin beds, two to a room. That means the mattress is on a platform of some type and does not use a separate innerspring.

These items of furniture were left from the previous occupants. When I saw the space in August last summer, I inquired and was told that new mattresses were to be obtained before this coming voluntario season. The linens are from the previous rented apartments. You do the laundry and change the linens, leaving the bed with fresh linens when you depart.

While there are two beds to a room, my understanding is that two people are assigned to a room only if: (a) if requested by the volunteer; or, (b) they have more than 5 voluntarios at that time. NOTE: There have been a few, limited, instances of "tag along" spouses...just sayin.

Hope this helps.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances SJPP to Santiago (2016)
Le Puy en Velay to SJPP (2018)
Santiago to Muxia (2018)
#8
Thank you for your wonderfully informative reply to my question. I am going to have to do at lot more homework on my spanish.
Muchas gracias
 
Camino(s) past & future
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean 2017.
#10
Hola Tom - there was a question about minimum ages and minimum stays.
18 as a minimum age is my guess and two weeks minimum stay. Are these correct?? Cheers
 
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
#11
I am not aware of a minimum age. You can send an e-mail as I suggested in my instructions and ask. I can tell you that there are multiple teenaged volunteers, engaged locally, who work in the office. One suspects the guiding principle is maturity and responsibility, rather than mere chronological age.

It is not a party, after several days working even only five or six hours daily, you are typically drained. This is especially true from June through the end of August when daily arrival numbers run in the thousands...every day... That said, I ALWAYS get more out of the experience than I put into it. Each year, I look forward to it more and more.

As a general matter, the minimum commitment sought is for two weeks, running Monday through Second Sunday. This comports with their scheduling. I have seen lesser days worked, and I have done half-weeks, depending on my travel dates. But, for first timers, I recommend sticking to the standard scheduling blocks, Monday - Sunday x 2.

Hope this helps.
 
Last edited:

MethaV

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2014 Camino Frances
2017 Le Puy en Velay-Cahors
2018 Cahors-SJPdP
Le Chemin Piemont Pyrénéen (2019)
#13
Over the past several months, several fellow Forum members have asked individually about how to go about offering their services as volunteers (voluntarios) at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago. Each time, I have replied. In addition, I provided much of this information in direct replies within varied postings.

However, the number of individual inquiries has recently risen to the point where I think a good, general posting that is easily searchable would be appropriate. So, here it is. I took the most recent Private Message (PM) I shared with another Forum member as the basis for this post.

I have had the privilege of working there for the past four years and plan to serve again for a month this summer (2018). So, if you are so motivated, I can certainly point you in the right direction.

First, and as others have asked me, religion is not a prerequisite. Although I am a Cradle Catholic myself, I am not aware that this has ever been a requirement. Having done at least one Camino IS a baseline requirement. They prefer volunteers who can both talk the talk and have walked the walk.

Second, as regards language skills, more is better, and Spanish is most preferred. But they will consider anyone with some skills in that area.

The language need also depends on the time of year you seek to volunteer. For example, if you work in the latter half of July and during August, Spanish is more highly valued as the percentage of arriving volunteers who speak Spanish as a first language is huge. From May until mid-July, the mix is more varied and other European languages are relatively more helpful.

For reference, to improve my survival level pilgrim Spanish, I use a Pimsleur CD course with 30 lessons that I repeat in cycle. I also use Duolingo.com every day to reinforce the spoken lessons. Each time I volunteer, my Spanish comprehension improves. I am very much a work in progress...

Third, as regards the actual process of becoming a volunteer / voluntario at the Pilgrim Office, I am repeating the content of previous posts as general post to all the forum readers who might be similarly interested. Here it is:

"To answer those who are interested in becoming Pilgrim Office volunteers / voluntarios, here is the procedure:

1. Write an e-mail to Sra. Montse Díaz at:

(NOTE: 'Mohn-say' is short for 'Monserrat,' a traditional woman's name in some provinces of Spain.)

info@acogidacristianaenelcamino.es

The message must be in Spanish. Introduce yourself. Indicate how many and which Caminos you have done, and when. I use the Microsoft BIng translator for best results.

2. Explain your level of Spanish spoken. Mine is basic, but I can communicate adequately.

3. Offer your services as a voluntario for a period of not less than two weeks. The cycle is from (about) 1 - 15 of the month, and 16 - 30/31 of each month, depending on the month.

Information of interest:

Office work schedules start on Mondays.

Volunteers generally work six days out of seven. Every volunteer has a "dia libre" (day-off). That day off can vary from week to week.

The standard daily work shifts for volunteers are: 10:00 - 15:00 and 15:00 - 20:00. This fits into the work shifts for the full-time staff. They start earlier and end later.

The 'season' starts at Easter (Semana Santa) and runs through the end of September. The "peak season" is about 15 June - 15 September. That is when voluntarios are most needed.

The weather in Santiago during June - September is equivalent to the winter months in South Florida where I live. That is to say DELIGHTFUL! That is one big reason I come to help when I do. The sun is warm, but the humidity is low. NIghts can be chilly. Rain is sparse. But, I would come anyway, and will as often as they invite me back.

You pay to get here and back, and to feed yourself. The volunteer coordinating group ACC (Acogida Cristiana en el Camino) provides free lodging.

Fluency in Spanish is not necessary, but some knowledge is. Volunteers who can converse in Spanish, or other needed languages, find themselves working behind the counter interviewing arriving pilgrims from all over the world and issuing Compostelas.

Folks like me, with a more rudimentary knowledge of Spanish, end up doing other supporting work that helps the rest of the staff, paid and volunteer, remain effective. The word around the office is that: "Tomas will do ANYTHING that is legal if you ask. If it is 'sketchy,' you need to ask real nice..."

That said, since I returned last August, I have been doing and repeating my Pimsleur CD Spanish course, using www.duolingo.com online, and listening to a series of university lectures about Spain. When I complete the courses, I repeat them...again and again...

Remember, the pilgrim flat does have an equipped kitchen, so you can shop and cook if you choose. They provide housing.

The pilgrim flat also has a washing machine, but no dryer. You spin the clothes as much as you can, then hang them on a folding drying rack. I employ 'batchelor ironing.' That is spin the clothes out using the machine, snap them open and hang on a hanger to dry. Presto! No wrinkles!

As from last September, the P/O has a new flat in a VERY historic building. All the above notes apply here. This, former vicarage, is located in the nearly 900 year-old Convento de Santa Clara de Asis (Convent of Saint Clare of Assisi), on Rua de San Roque. It has five bedrooms and three bathrooms, two kitchens, and a large salon or living room. It enjoys a marvelous overlook of the old city and the Cathedral, and is a 10-minute uphill walk from the Pilgrim Office. Google it... I toured the building before they actually took legal possession last year. It is fabulous!

Now is the time to toss your hat in the ring. Once we are into March, they have all their plans made. Remember, the early bird... I will walk into Santiago again in the second half of April. Usually, this is when I greet my old friends at the Pilgrim Office and elsewhere in Santiago, and arrange my specific dates. As soon as I return home, I make my travel arrangements.

Feel free to ask further questions. Oh, and tell Monste in your e-mail that: "Thomas, el grande Norteamericano con la barba" sent you... That is 'the big American with the beard...' I grew it on Camino last year and the family directed me to keep it.

Hope this helps.

Best regards,

Tom
Thank you for very good information, Tom. This year will be difficult, but I will definitively try for 2019.
My native language is Swedish, English is high level. I speak rather fluently Italian, French and Spanish and a bit of Germain. I have walked twice in Spain, SJPP-Burgos 2011 and Pamplona-Santiago 2014, once in France, Le Puy-Cahors 2017 and will continue there this summer. That should give me a chance for the Pilgrim Office, I think.
Would be really nice!
Maggi
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino francés from Roncesvalles and from Astorga, Camino portugués from Tui, hospitalero Refugio Gaucelmo in Rabanal del Camino 6 times
#14
First, and as others have asked me, religion is not a prerequisite. Although I am a Cradle Catholic myself, I am not aware that this has ever been a requirement. Having done at least one Camino IS a baseline requirement. They prefer volunteers who can both talk the talk and have walked the walk.
Hmm. My wife and I were in the Oficina last fall and early on we had a session - for lack of a better word - with one of the clergy - don't remember who - who laid out the fundamental and real religious underpinnings of the Camino. My wife is a (very liberal) Catholic and I'm a non-practicing Unitarian (whatever that is). I recall being *very* uncomfortable in that meeting. Not an appropriate time to open a discussion about the spiritual as opposed to religious nature of the Camino for many - including me. We kept our mouths shut and nodded a lot. It is true that at no point in the process were we ever asked about being Catholic.
 

mmmmartin

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2014
Plata (2017)
#15
Interesting post, thank you. Thought provoking.

The Church Of England is a catholic church. We say in church on Sunday that we are a "Holy, catholic and apostolic church."
Merely not Roman catholic.
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" camino
Porto to SdC May 2019
#16
Over the past several months, several fellow Forum members have asked individually about how to go about offering their services as volunteers (voluntarios) at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago. Each time, I have replied. In addition, I provided much of this information in direct replies within varied postings.

However, the number of individual inquiries has recently risen to the point where I think a good, general posting that is easily searchable would be appropriate. So, here it is. I took the most recent Private Message (PM) I shared with another Forum member as the basis for this post.

I have had the privilege of working there for the past four years and plan to serve again for a month this summer (2018). So, if you are so motivated, I can certainly point you in the right direction.

First, and as others have asked me, religion is not a prerequisite. Although I am a Cradle Catholic myself, I am not aware that this has ever been a requirement. Having done at least one Camino IS a baseline requirement. They prefer volunteers who can both talk the talk and have walked the walk.

Second, as regards language skills, more is better, and Spanish is most preferred. But they will consider anyone with some skills in that area.

The language need also depends on the time of year you seek to volunteer. For example, if you work in the latter half of July and during August, Spanish is more highly valued as the percentage of arriving volunteers who speak Spanish as a first language is huge. From May until mid-July, the mix is more varied and other European languages are relatively more helpful.

For reference, to improve my survival level pilgrim Spanish, I use a Pimsleur CD course with 30 lessons that I repeat in cycle. I also use Duolingo.com every day to reinforce the spoken lessons. Each time I volunteer, my Spanish comprehension improves. I am very much a work in progress...

Third, as regards the actual process of becoming a volunteer / voluntario at the Pilgrim Office, I am repeating the content of previous posts as general post to all the forum readers who might be similarly interested. Here it is:

"To answer those who are interested in becoming Pilgrim Office volunteers / voluntarios, here is the procedure:

1. Write an e-mail to Sra. Montse Díaz at:

(NOTE: 'Mohn-say' is short for 'Monserrat,' a traditional woman's name in some provinces of Spain.)

info@acogidacristianaenelcamino.es

The message must be in Spanish. Introduce yourself. Indicate how many and which Caminos you have done, and when. I use the Microsoft BIng translator for best results.

2. Explain your level of Spanish spoken. Mine is basic, but I can communicate adequately.

3. Offer your services as a voluntario for a period of not less than two weeks. The cycle is from (about) 1 - 15 of the month, and 16 - 30/31 of each month, depending on the month.

Information of interest:

Office work schedules start on Mondays.

Volunteers generally work six days out of seven. Every volunteer has a "dia libre" (day-off). That day off can vary from week to week.

The standard daily work shifts for volunteers are: 10:00 - 15:00 and 15:00 - 20:00. This fits into the work shifts for the full-time staff. They start earlier and end later.

The 'season' starts at Easter (Semana Santa) and runs through the end of September. The "peak season" is about 15 June - 15 September. That is when voluntarios are most needed.

The weather in Santiago during June - September is equivalent to the winter months in South Florida where I live. That is to say DELIGHTFUL! That is one big reason I come to help when I do. The sun is warm, but the humidity is low. NIghts can be chilly. Rain is sparse. But, I would come anyway, and will as often as they invite me back.

You pay to get here and back, and to feed yourself. The volunteer coordinating group ACC (Acogida Cristiana en el Camino) provides free lodging.

Fluency in Spanish is not necessary, but some knowledge is. Volunteers who can converse in Spanish, or other needed languages, find themselves working behind the counter interviewing arriving pilgrims from all over the world and issuing Compostelas.

Folks like me, with a more rudimentary knowledge of Spanish, end up doing other supporting work that helps the rest of the staff, paid and volunteer, remain effective. The word around the office is that: "Tomas will do ANYTHING that is legal if you ask. If it is 'sketchy,' you need to ask real nice..."

That said, since I returned last August, I have been doing and repeating my Pimsleur CD Spanish course, using www.duolingo.com online, and listening to a series of university lectures about Spain. When I complete the courses, I repeat them...again and again...

Remember, the pilgrim flat does have an equipped kitchen, so you can shop and cook if you choose. They provide housing.

The pilgrim flat also has a washing machine, but no dryer. You spin the clothes as much as you can, then hang them on a folding drying rack. I employ 'batchelor ironing.' That is spin the clothes out using the machine, snap them open and hang on a hanger to dry. Presto! No wrinkles!

As from last September, the P/O has a new flat in a VERY historic building. All the above notes apply here. This, former vicarage, is located in the nearly 900 year-old Convento de Santa Clara de Asis (Convent of Saint Clare of Assisi), on Rua de San Roque. It has five bedrooms and three bathrooms, two kitchens, and a large salon or living room. It enjoys a marvelous overlook of the old city and the Cathedral, and is a 10-minute uphill walk from the Pilgrim Office. Google it... I toured the building before they actually took legal possession last year. It is fabulous!

Now is the time to toss your hat in the ring. Once we are into March, they have all their plans made. Remember, the early bird... I will walk into Santiago again in the second half of April. Usually, this is when I greet my old friends at the Pilgrim Office and elsewhere in Santiago, and arrange my specific dates. As soon as I return home, I make my travel arrangements.

Feel free to ask further questions. Oh, and tell Monste in your e-mail that: "Thomas, el grande Norteamericano con la barba" sent you... That is 'the big American with the beard...' I grew it on Camino last year and the family directed me to keep it.

Hope this helps.

Best regards,

Tom
Hi there Tom,

Well that worked a treat. I have been accepted and shall be working in the Pilgrim Office over the last week of September/first week of October. Montse has been very helpful as has Google Translate - I'm really looking forward to it.

On a more serious note, my sincere sympathies to all Floridians, indeed all of your country, affected by the tragic events of this week. I don't know what else to say.

Jeffrey
 
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
#17
Jeff:

I am very glad that my advice for volunteering worked for you. Trust me, you will get far more out of the experience than you put into it. I always do.

My volunteer stint this year, as is my pattern, is to arrive before the Feast of Santiago on 25 July, and to work through the Feast of the Assumption on 15 August. This is statistically, the busiest time of the year. It is 'all hands to the pumps' during this month. So, I will likely be there from around 20 July through about 20 August. My final dates will be locked in when I arrive off the Camino Invierno in late April.

On another note, thank you very much for your note of condolence. The flags are, once again flying at half-staff in respect for the victims. These unfortunate events occur all too often. This one was about 20 minutes from the area where I live. As my wife says, that is too close for comfort. Then again, it can happen anywhere.

Y'all stay safe out there...and comfort one another.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2011-2017: Home(Germany) to SdC via Cologne-Taizé-Le Puy-Somport-Camino Aragones-Camino Frances
#18
The Church Of England is a catholic church. We say in church on Sunday that we are a "Holy, catholic and apostolic church."
Merely not Roman catholic.
Most likely, the word "catholic" is used in this context in the meaning of "general" or "universal" (Source:Four Marks of the Church). The Church of England does not have a selfconception of being a catholic church, but being a part of a universal church, "catholic" being only one property amongst others: "The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church" (Source).


Apart from that: thanks to all for the highly interesting insights into the Pilgrim Office's work!
 
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
#20
Apparently, my previous post about exactly how to volunteer was a success, a BIG success. Recently, the Pilgrim Office asked me to confirm my planned volunteer dates at the PIlgrim Office in Santiago. I replied with the actual dates to encompass a one-month stint.

Imagine my surprise when I received a polite, but formulaic reply that "due to the number of volunteers this year, we are limiting all volunteer assignments to one 15-day period..." They provided a chart of the actual from and to dates.

I knew the office needed more volunteers. When I posted my recommended instructions, I had NO idea it would be so successful.:eek: Thank you for volunteering.

So, to all of you who have been successful in scoring a volunteer place, you will love it. I do not blame anyone for forcing me aside... (sic). This is proof of the old adage that says... "no good deed goes unpunished..." ;)

And so it goes...
 
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Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" camino
Porto to SdC May 2019
#21
Apparently, my previous post about exactly how to volunteer was a success, a BIG success. Recently, the Pilgrim Office asked me to confirm my planned volunteer dates at the PIlgrim Office in Santiago. I replied with the actual dates to encompass a one-month stint.

Imagine my surprise when I received a polite, by formulaic reply that "due to the number of volunteers this year, we are limiting all volunteer assignments to one 15-day period..." They provided a chart of the actual from and to dates.

I knew the office needed more volunteers. When I posted my recommended instructions, I had NO idea it would be so successful.:eek: Thank you for volunteering.

So, to all of you who have been successful in scoring a volunteer place, you will love it. I do not blame anyone for forcing me aside... (sic). This is proof of the old adage that says... "no good deed goes unpunished..." ;)

And so it goes...
Sorry to hear that Tom, but, like they say, no selfless good deed goes unpunished!

I've already booked my flights otherwise I'd stand down (he fibbed).

Thanks for pointing us in the right direction,

Regards

Jeff C
 

Peter1

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
September 2017
#22
Over the past several months, several fellow Forum members have asked individually about how to go about offering their services as volunteers (voluntarios) at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago. Each time, I have replied. In addition, I provided much of this information in direct replies within varied postings.

However, the number of individual inquiries has recently risen to the point where I think a good, general posting that is easily searchable would be appropriate. So, here it is. I took the most recent Private Message (PM) I shared with another Forum member as the basis for this post.

I have had the privilege of working there for the past four years and plan to serve again for a month this summer (2018). So, if you are so motivated, I can certainly point you in the right direction.

First, and as others have asked me, religion is not a prerequisite. Although I am a Cradle Catholic myself, I am not aware that this has ever been a requirement. Having done at least one Camino IS a baseline requirement. They prefer volunteers who can both talk the talk and have walked the walk.

Second, as regards language skills, more is better, and Spanish is most preferred. But they will consider anyone with some skills in that area.

The language need also depends on the time of year you seek to volunteer. For example, if you work in the latter half of July and during August, Spanish is more highly valued as the percentage of arriving volunteers who speak Spanish as a first language is huge. From May until mid-July, the mix is more varied and other European languages are relatively more helpful.

For reference, to improve my survival level pilgrim Spanish, I use a Pimsleur CD course with 30 lessons that I repeat in cycle. I also use Duolingo.com every day to reinforce the spoken lessons. Each time I volunteer, my Spanish comprehension improves. I am very much a work in progress...

Third, as regards the actual process of becoming a volunteer / voluntario at the Pilgrim Office, I am repeating the content of previous posts as general post to all the forum readers who might be similarly interested. Here it is:

"To answer those who are interested in becoming Pilgrim Office volunteers / voluntarios, here is the procedure:

1. Write an e-mail to Sra. Montse Díaz at:

(NOTE: 'Mohn-say' is short for 'Monserrat,' a traditional woman's name in some provinces of Spain.)

info@acogidacristianaenelcamino.es

The message must be in Spanish. Introduce yourself. Indicate how many and which Caminos you have done, and when. I use the Microsoft BIng translator for best results.

2. Explain your level of Spanish spoken. Mine is basic, but I can communicate adequately.

3. Offer your services as a voluntario for a period of not less than two weeks. The cycle is from (about) 1 - 15 of the month, and 16 - 30/31 of each month, depending on the month.

Information of interest:

Office work schedules start on Mondays.

Volunteers generally work six days out of seven. Every volunteer has a "dia libre" (day-off). That day off can vary from week to week.

The standard daily work shifts for volunteers are: 10:00 - 15:00 and 15:00 - 20:00. This fits into the work shifts for the full-time staff. They start earlier and end later.

The 'season' starts at Easter (Semana Santa) and runs through the end of September. The "peak season" is about 15 June - 15 September. That is when voluntarios are most needed.

The weather in Santiago during June - September is equivalent to the winter months in South Florida where I live. That is to say DELIGHTFUL! That is one big reason I come to help when I do. The sun is warm, but the humidity is low. NIghts can be chilly. Rain is sparse. But, I would come anyway, and will as often as they invite me back.

You pay to get here and back, and to feed yourself. The volunteer coordinating group ACC (Acogida Cristiana en el Camino) provides free lodging.

Fluency in Spanish is not necessary, but some knowledge is. Volunteers who can converse in Spanish, or other needed languages, find themselves working behind the counter interviewing arriving pilgrims from all over the world and issuing Compostelas.

Folks like me, with a more rudimentary knowledge of Spanish, end up doing other supporting work that helps the rest of the staff, paid and volunteer, remain effective. The word around the office is that: "Tomas will do ANYTHING that is legal if you ask. If it is 'sketchy,' you need to ask real nice..."

That said, since I returned last August, I have been doing and repeating my Pimsleur CD Spanish course, using www.duolingo.com online, and listening to a series of university lectures about Spain. When I complete the courses, I repeat them...again and again...

Remember, the pilgrim flat does have an equipped kitchen, so you can shop and cook if you choose. They provide housing.

The pilgrim flat also has a washing machine, but no dryer. You spin the clothes as much as you can, then hang them on a folding drying rack. I employ 'batchelor ironing.' That is spin the clothes out using the machine, snap them open and hang on a hanger to dry. Presto! No wrinkles!

As from last September, the P/O has a new flat in a VERY historic building. All the above notes apply here. This, former vicarage, is located in the nearly 900 year-old Convento de Santa Clara de Asis (Convent of Saint Clare of Assisi), on Rua de San Roque. It has five bedrooms and three bathrooms, two kitchens, and a large salon or living room. It enjoys a marvelous overlook of the old city and the Cathedral, and is a 10-minute uphill walk from the Pilgrim Office. Google it... I toured the building before they actually took legal possession last year. It is fabulous!

Now is the time to toss your hat in the ring. Once we are into March, they have all their plans made. Remember, the early bird... I will walk into Santiago again in the second half of April. Usually, this is when I greet my old friends at the Pilgrim Office and elsewhere in Santiago, and arrange my specific dates. As soon as I return home, I make my travel arrangements.

Feel free to ask further questions. Oh, and tell Monste in your e-mail that: "Thomas, el grande Norteamericano con la barba" sent you... That is 'the big American with the beard...' I grew it on Camino last year and the family directed me to keep it.

Hope this helps.

Best regards,

Tom
I’m afraid the email address for the office you gave doesn’t work. Do you by any chance have another? It bounced.
 

PattyKoed

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Full Camino 2017
#23
Over the past several months, several fellow Forum members have asked individually about how to go about offering their services as volunteers (voluntarios) at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago. Each time, I have replied. In addition, I provided much of this information in direct replies within varied postings.

However, the number of individual inquiries has recently risen to the point where I think a good, general posting that is easily searchable would be appropriate. So, here it is. I took the most recent Private Message (PM) I shared with another Forum member as the basis for this post.

I have had the privilege of working there for the past four years and plan to serve again for a month this summer (2018). So, if you are so motivated, I can certainly point you in the right direction.

First, and as others have asked me, religion is not a prerequisite. Although I am a Cradle Catholic myself, I am not aware that this has ever been a requirement. Having done at least one Camino IS a baseline requirement. They prefer volunteers who can both talk the talk and have walked the walk.

Second, as regards language skills, more is better, and Spanish is most preferred. But they will consider anyone with some skills in that area.

The language need also depends on the time of year you seek to volunteer. For example, if you work in the latter half of July and during August, Spanish is more highly valued as the percentage of arriving volunteers who speak Spanish as a first language is huge. From May until mid-July, the mix is more varied and other European languages are relatively more helpful.

For reference, to improve my survival level pilgrim Spanish, I use a Pimsleur CD course with 30 lessons that I repeat in cycle. I also use Duolingo.com every day to reinforce the spoken lessons. Each time I volunteer, my Spanish comprehension improves. I am very much a work in progress...

Third, as regards the actual process of becoming a volunteer / voluntario at the Pilgrim Office, I am repeating the content of previous posts as general post to all the forum readers who might be similarly interested. Here it is:

"To answer those who are interested in becoming Pilgrim Office volunteers / voluntarios, here is the procedure:

1. Write an e-mail to Sra. Montse Díaz at:

(NOTE: 'Mohn-say' is short for 'Monserrat,' a traditional woman's name in some provinces of Spain.)

info@acogidacristianaenelcamino.es

The message must be in Spanish. Introduce yourself. Indicate how many and which Caminos you have done, and when. I use the Microsoft BIng translator for best results.

2. Explain your level of Spanish spoken. Mine is basic, but I can communicate adequately.

3. Offer your services as a voluntario for a period of not less than two weeks. The cycle is from (about) 1 - 15 of the month, and 16 - 30/31 of each month, depending on the month.

Information of interest:

Office work schedules start on Mondays.

Volunteers generally work six days out of seven. Every volunteer has a "dia libre" (day-off). That day off can vary from week to week.

The standard daily work shifts for volunteers are: 10:00 - 15:00 and 15:00 - 20:00. This fits into the work shifts for the full-time staff. They start earlier and end later.

The 'season' starts at Easter (Semana Santa) and runs through the end of September. The "peak season" is about 15 June - 15 September. That is when voluntarios are most needed.

The weather in Santiago during June - September is equivalent to the winter months in South Florida where I live. That is to say DELIGHTFUL! That is one big reason I come to help when I do. The sun is warm, but the humidity is low. NIghts can be chilly. Rain is sparse. But, I would come anyway, and will as often as they invite me back.

You pay to get here and back, and to feed yourself. The volunteer coordinating group ACC (Acogida Cristiana en el Camino) provides free lodging.

Fluency in Spanish is not necessary, but some knowledge is. Volunteers who can converse in Spanish, or other needed languages, find themselves working behind the counter interviewing arriving pilgrims from all over the world and issuing Compostelas.

Folks like me, with a more rudimentary knowledge of Spanish, end up doing other supporting work that helps the rest of the staff, paid and volunteer, remain effective. The word around the office is that: "Tomas will do ANYTHING that is legal if you ask. If it is 'sketchy,' you need to ask real nice..."

That said, since I returned last August, I have been doing and repeating my Pimsleur CD Spanish course, using www.duolingo.com online, and listening to a series of university lectures about Spain. When I complete the courses, I repeat them...again and again...

Remember, the pilgrim flat does have an equipped kitchen, so you can shop and cook if you choose. They provide housing.

The pilgrim flat also has a washing machine, but no dryer. You spin the clothes as much as you can, then hang them on a folding drying rack. I employ 'batchelor ironing.' That is spin the clothes out using the machine, snap them open and hang on a hanger to dry. Presto! No wrinkles!

As from last September, the P/O has a new flat in a VERY historic building. All the above notes apply here. This, former vicarage, is located in the nearly 900 year-old Convento de Santa Clara de Asis (Convent of Saint Clare of Assisi), on Rua de San Roque. It has five bedrooms and three bathrooms, two kitchens, and a large salon or living room. It enjoys a marvelous overlook of the old city and the Cathedral, and is a 10-minute uphill walk from the Pilgrim Office. Google it... I toured the building before they actually took legal possession last year. It is fabulous!

Now is the time to toss your hat in the ring. Once we are into March, they have all their plans made. Remember, the early bird... I will walk into Santiago again in the second half of April. Usually, this is when I greet my old friends at the Pilgrim Office and elsewhere in Santiago, and arrange my specific dates. As soon as I return home, I make my travel arrangements.

Feel free to ask further questions. Oh, and tell Monste in your e-mail that: "Thomas, el grande Norteamericano con la barba" sent you... That is 'the big American with the beard...' I grew it on Camino last year and the family directed me to keep it.

Hope this helps.

Best regards,

Tom
Thank you very much for your post, Tom. I also live in South Florida, in Tradition. Any chance you are near me?
 
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
#24

William Garza

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
#25
Wonder if Tex-Mex would be understandable? Lingua franca if you live near the border..sigh..just have to get that darn Camino done...
Followed by my impatient tapping of digits
 
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
#26
Just do it, William!

Your tex-Mex, if fluent, trumps (no pun intended) my DIY self-taught Castellano Spanish.

One thing is for certain. Each year, my Spanish improves discernibly. Perhaps, before I get too old and infirm, I will be able to process Compostelas.

Presently, I am the "Cinderfella" for the office. I literally do anything and everything they ask me to do. If I do anything, it is to allow the regular staff and fluent Spanish speakers to remain at their positions processing more arriving Pilgrims. The office has 14 workstations with computers to input data. Plus, there is a separate casse or payment line for making payments of any monies owed for optional goods or services purchased. So, that is at least 15 people actively engaged in the work of the office during the day. My function is to keep them working efficiently.

At this time of year, early March, there are maybe 70 - 100 arriving pilgrims - all day. When I am there in mid-July to mid-August, the number is regularly above 1,500 daily and frequently over 2,000 daily. Several days last summer, we even hit 2,500 arriving pilgrims. So, it does get very busy and hectic at times. But, having done it four years running, I know what to expect.

From arranging stock in the souvenir section, keeping neat the individual workstations at the counter, changing 40-liter bottles of spring water on the water machine, tidying up - picking up trash and taking out the flattened corrugated boxes from all the paper processing, running errands, and to lugging cases of paper forms from the attic or the basement. This is interspersed with being outside, rain or shine (usually it is shine), to welcome and direct arriving pilgrims, answer questions, provide advice and directions, etc. Also, I have the benefit of working on my tan as well...;)
 

William Garza

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
#27
That all sounds WONDERFULL!
between me n you....and about a million forum members ime hoping to have enough saved...have enough leg work done to stand the strain and flat out patience...to make it up there....
Its a matter of when now..
I will be that one guy hugging everybody with the huge grin!
Lost 70 lbs..gained 5 back..ugh..hind legs are stronger and will soon start training with weighted pack
Its getting real-er by the week
Good Lord...
 
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
#29
Actually, a few Forum members do come up to me during my summer volunteer stints. That’s always fun.

But the strange thing is when a Forum member tells me that they are “following me.” In my career, being followed was an operational liability. It meant that I was not successful at running a counter-surveillance routine.

Now, it’s just weird... :eek: I am still getting used any sort of notice or notoriety. o_O
 

William Garza

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
#30
Actually, a few Forum members do come up to me during my summer volunteer stints. That’s always fun.

But the strange thing is when a Forum member tells me that they are “following me.” In my career, being followed was an operational liability. It meant that I was not successful at running a counter-surveillance routine.

Now, it’s just weird... :eek: I am still getting used any sort of notice or notoriety. o_O
Thats why this chubby ninja uses a 400mm lens and stealth to catch the bad guys;)
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2015, CPo 2016, VDLP[Sev-Các] 2017, VDLP[Các-Sal] 2018
#31
Hi, thank you so much for posting your original message - I had been thinking about volunteering in some way so it gave me a push. I got my date from Monste last week for the start of Sept this year. Sorry to hear that your message was so successful that we have gazzumped your plans though! But I am looking forward to it so much - thank you again.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francis (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017) SJPDP-SDC
Camino Norte 2018
Pilgrims Office Volunteer 2018
#32
Hello fellow Pilgrims, I just received word from Sra. Montse Diaz to report for duty September 10 thru 24, 2018. YEA!! I had tried to get into one of the Hostels but they are full/completo. I am blessed to be able to serve......
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" camino
Porto to SdC May 2019
#33
Hello fellow Pilgrims, I just received word from Sra. Montse Diaz to report for duty September 10 thru 24, 2018. YEA!! I had tried to get into one of the Hostels but they are full/completo. I am blessed to be able to serve......
Good news - I'll be taking over from you (24 September - 8 October).

If you have the time could you let us all know how it goes please?
 

Peter1

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
September 2017
#35
Peter:

I have been in regular contact with Sra. Montse Diaz at this address:

info@acogidacristianaenelcamino.es

That should work. It does for me.

Hope this helps.
Hi Tom a belated and big thank you. I managed to make contact with Montse and am volunteering 9 to 16 July. I ve been boning up in my Spanish using a brilliant and cheap course on Udemy.

Regards
Peter
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francis (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017) SJPDP-SDC
Camino Norte 2018
Pilgrims Office Volunteer 2018
#38
Hi, thank you so much for posting your original message - I had been thinking about volunteering in some way so it gave me a push. I got my date from Monste last week for the start of Sept this year. Sorry to hear that your message was so successful that we have gazzumped your plans though! But I am looking forward to it so much - thank you again.
Looks like I will be relieving you on the 10th of September?
 

leichecerca

Can’t stay away
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Finisterre: May 2018
Camino Frances: April-May 2018
Camino Frances: April-May 2017
#42
Dear t2andreo -- Just want you to know what it was your wonderful post about volunteering in Santiago that inspired me to volunteer in the Oficina del Peregrino this past May, following my 2nd Camino Frances. Volunteering there was everything you said it would be, and more. I so appreciate you putting me in touch with Montse. Much appreciated!!! Here is my long blog post about my volunteer experience, if you're interested.
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" camino
Porto to SdC May 2019
#43
Dear t2andreo -- Just want you to know what it was your wonderful post about volunteering in Santiago that inspired me to volunteer in the Oficina del Peregrino this past May, following my 2nd Camino Frances. Volunteering there was everything you said it would be, and more. I so appreciate you putting me in touch with Montse. Much appreciated!!! Here is my long blog post about my volunteer experience, if you're interested.
Thanks for the blog write up - six weeks to go for me! Was there anything you thought you ought to have taken for your two weeks?
 

leichecerca

Can’t stay away
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Finisterre: May 2018
Camino Frances: April-May 2018
Camino Frances: April-May 2017
#44
Thanks for the blog write up - six weeks to go for me! Was there anything you thought you ought to have taken for your two weeks?
Hi Jeff! I didn't need anything other than what I already had in my backpack from doing the Camino. The Oficina del Peregrino provides you with a volunteer T-shirt, but if you're volunteering at the end of your Camino, you might want to ship some extra clothes ahead to Ivar's place in Santiago -- unless you want to continue wearing your Camino shoes & gear while volunteering (which is perfectly OK). The convent housing included use of a full kitchen, and there are several bakeries plus a grocery store very close to the convent. The only minor inconvenience is that there is NO wifi at the convent, nor at the Oficina del Peregrino. But I rather enjoyed unplugging. Maybe bring some books/audio-books? I didn't feel the need, I enjoyed exploring Santiago in my (limited) down time. Good luck & enjoy!
 

Manicka

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Lisboa-Santiago-Muxia-Finisterre in 2018.
#45
Nice to hear that there is no dress code at the Oficina del Peregrino. iT will make my packing easier. One question, though: I am arriving to Santiago day before (Sunday, August 26) to start on Monday 27. The lodging by The volunteer coordinating group ACC is provided from Monday, right? (Sunday overnight bed is to be arranged by myself)
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF(x4), Fisterra/Muxía(x2), VdlP, Jerusalem, VF, Walsingham,
C inglés. 2019? Who knows! ;-)
#46
It was lovely meeting you @t2andreo if only briefly! Thank you for being there and I hope you have a lovely time now with your family :)
 

leichecerca

Can’t stay away
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Finisterre: May 2018
Camino Frances: April-May 2018
Camino Frances: April-May 2017
#47
Nice to hear that there is no dress code at the Oficina del Peregrino. iT will make my packing easier. One question, though: I am arriving to Santiago day before (Sunday, August 26) to start on Monday 27. The lodging by The volunteer coordinating group ACC is provided from Monday, right? (Sunday overnight bed is to be arranged by myself)
@Manicka - you are correct - the housing provided to ACC volunteers begins Monday afternoon, after you arrive at the Oficina del Peregrino with all your belongings. You’ll check out Monday morning two weeks later — you don’t work on that final Monday. So yes, you will need to find a place to sleep Sunday night. Enjoy your volunteer experience! It is wonderful.
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" camino
Porto to SdC May 2019
#49
Here's a thought. How about putting a sticker on the front of your credential (small post-it?) so we know who is part of our extended family? Not that you'll get any favours! ;)
 

Manicka

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Lisboa-Santiago-Muxia-Finisterre in 2018.
#50
Just a few remarks to complete info about volunteering in ACC office:
- The Spanish language knowledge is not the essential requirement for working behind the counter. My Spanish is limited to basic sentences needed to communicate about credencial, compostela etc. I have them written on a piece of paper. When there is more communication needed, I asked somebody next to me who is fluent in Spanish. In return, I offered my knowledge of English, German, Czech and Russian language.
- One thing not mentioned here is ability to write in good-looking handwriting. This was sometimes a problem for me. I needed some time to exercise the writing before the shift.
- and yes, it is not easy work. You must be prepared to discuss (and sometimes argue) with a few pilgrims who do not fulfill the criteria to get the compostela. Sometimes, they even do not know about them. So be prepared for some stress, too.

But all that said, it was a wonderful experience. All the contacts with pilgrims, helping them and answering their questions and needs. And, of course, 2 weeks in a group of amazing people working with you. I am so glad I was given this opportunity.
 

JennyH94

Pilgrim in progress
Camino(s) past & future
The Frances from Pamplona and part VF, first-aid helper and hospitalera
#51
Hi Tom - how did your one month volunteering role at the Pilgrims Office this year go? I hope as wonderfully as usual. When you have a chance, how about sharing a story or two from this year's time at the Pilgrims Office?
Thank you for the work you do in Santiago and also for all your posts and huge contribution to the miracle that is our Camino Forum.
Cheers from Oz -
Jenny
 
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
#52
Hi, thank you so much for posting your original message - I had been thinking about volunteering in some way so it gave me a push. I got my date from Monste last week for the start of Sept this year. Sorry to hear that your message was so successful that we have gazzumped your plans though! But I am looking forward to it so much - thank you again.
Please report back, here, on how it went for you. Alternatively, you can start a private conversation with me.
 

SabineP

Camino = Empathy + Compassion.
Camino(s) past & future
some and then more. see my signature.
#53
If I would volunteer I would never make it to the front desk. I might have some suitable traits for working there but a neat handwriting is not one of them. Never will write decently. No matter how much I try.
 
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
#54
Jenny (& all my Camino friends and colleagues):

My one month at Santiago this year went splendidly, but some aspects were different this year. At the office proper, everything went pretty much to the same routine and pattern. So, it was very easy for me to just show up, jump-in and be helpful.

One thing changed. Being another year older, and taking medication that causes me to lose some stamina, I developed a dislike for lugging 50 pound boxes of paper forms from the attic, three stair sets (6 stair runs) to the main floor. The up & down has to be repeated for each box. There is no shortcut.

One box contains enough Compostelas or Distance Certificates for most of one day (@1,750 to a box). So each day requires perhaps 3 - 5 of these boxes. That is 6 - 10 trips up and down the stairs....every day. Did I mention I have hypertension too...?

Luckily for all, I learned that the security staff will do this lugging early each morning before it gets busy, provided you ask nice and ask early. In extremis, the male staff and I formed a chain and each grabbed a box. One round trip with four other fellows, is far better than 5 on my own. But, needs must, it got done.

Outside the office, the big change was the location of the volunteer flat. For this year, and likely next, volunteers are housed in a rather large, but very old (800 + years) former vicarage at the Convento de Santa Clara de Asis (Convent of Saint Clare of Assisi). This huge (like a full block-long) solid stone edifice is on Avenida San Roque, uphill from the Pilgrim Office.

Saying uphill is a misnomer. It is a CLIMB. The streets of San Francisco or Lisbon have nothing on this urban slope. From the Pilgrim Office you turn right at the corner, then past the Basilica of Saint Francis (San Francesco) on your left. Continuing UPHILL, you eventually turn left onto Avenida San Roque at Plaza San Roque. The grade is easily 15 percent and likely 20 percent. it is only a 15 minute walk, but it can be torture, especially when it is 37 degrees and sunny...:eek:

Normally, that would not have been an issue. However, this year, my knees are acting up. So, needs must. I went to Decathlon (the out of town one) that first week and bought a Queucha hiking cane, with a rubber tip for €10. That helped me propel myself up the hill, in much the same way as a hiking pole works when you are on Camino. It was money very well spent.

The single best part of the entire month was the two groups of volunteers I had the pleasure of rooming with.

The first two weeks, I had a couple of fellows from the UK in adjacent rooms on my floor. One was from Aberdeen Scotland. The other from near London. They were excellent roommates, and I think, we became friends. We remain in contact. There were also two Spanish folks from Valencia. They roomed on the first floor. We were on 'el segundo piso.' Their English was as limited as is my Spanish. But we got on very well. I enjoyed this time with these four colleagues.

The second two-week stint week saw an increase in the head count. I was joined "at the convent" by a polyglot mix of folks, men and women. They were from Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Ireland and Canada. One woman loved to cook and loved to sing opera while she did so. We had a great time, like an extended family. We also ate very well...:)

In fact, we all agreed to ask for the same time period to volunteer next summer. We shall see what happens. I already put my chit in for the 15 July through 15 August timeframe.

Apropos of this, I was told that, next year (2019), the volunteer 'brackets" are going to go from 1 - 15 of a month and 15 - the last day of a month. This year they were every two weeks, Monday to Sunday. IMHO, the former 1 - 15, & 15 - 30 / 31 brackets are easier to manage.

As regards your request for "stories from Santiago" there are a couple of really good ones. One, told over dinner to a diverse group including a friend who is a Catholic priest elicited the group's insistence that this story go into my planned book of stories from the Camino.

People have been after me to write a book for some years now. Apparently, I tell a good story...go figure... But, I am in no rush as each Camino season and volunteer stint brings additional material for the eventual book.

My intent is NOT to write yet another 'how to' book. People already get enough of my advice and recommendation free here in the Forum. That is what I intend.

What I think is different is that I want to tell stories of people I encountered, helped, or heard about while I was on my various Caminos, or when I worked at the Pilgrim Office. Everyone has similar stories, and I will not include the lesser, more common stories.

My intent is to only include stories that transcend the usual: blisters, bed bug, bad food, wine or water, rude pilgrim, etc.. all encounters we have had when on Camino at one time or another. No, my book, when written, will include transformative stories, or stories that I have been told from reliable sources and which moved me. I believe they will also affect you, the reader.

Even @SYates, a good friend, is trying to get me to write it and self-publish via Amazon / Kindle. As many of you may know @SYates is an accomplished writer and self-published author. her book on Camino preparation is among the very, very best there is, at least IMHO.

One of the stories from this year involves a "heart of stone." All I will say (I know it's a tease) is that it is a love story, or at least an expression of love. It began in April and was not fulfilled until August of this year, and took two trips to Spain to accomplish. But, y'all are going to have to wait for the book to get the full story. When I told this story to a mixed group, they all acclaimed it was worthy of 'the book.'

Right now, I suffer from ennui and inertia. Perhaps if I can get motivated I will write the book. It will cover the many and various stories that I have developed over six Caminos and five years volunteering. I have a LOT of names to change...

I hope this helps... If anyone has specific or private issues concerning volunteering at Santiago, please send me a private message. I will reply.
 

JennyH94

Pilgrim in progress
Camino(s) past & future
The Frances from Pamplona and part VF, first-aid helper and hospitalera
#55
Hi Tom -
Thanks so very much for your wonderful reply. It was so good to hear that all went well and that the team spirit was very much in evidence - in particular with the hauling of those heavy boxes from the attic to the main floor. The resourceful use of the Decathlon pole was excellent too!
The time you shared the apartment with new friends sounds brilliant - thank you for painting such a lovely picture here.
Yes! The book! We are all waiting for it! I know there's been mention of it before on the Forum and if your engaging writing style in your posts is any indication, it's going to be a terrific read. Keep us posted on how it's progressing.
Thanks again for your wonderful update -
Cheers from Oz -
Jenny
 

SafariGirl

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés, Vía de la Plata, Primitivo, Norte, Lebaniego & Vadiniense,
Aragonés
#56
Over the past several months, several fellow Forum members have asked individually about how to go about offering their services as volunteers (voluntarios) at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago. Each time, I have replied. In addition, I provided much of this information in direct replies within varied postings.

However, the number of individual inquiries has recently risen to the point where I think a good, general posting that is easily searchable would be appropriate. So, here it is. I took the most recent Private Message (PM) I shared with another Forum member as the basis for this post.

I have had the privilege of working there for the past four years and plan to serve again for a month this summer (2018). So, if you are so motivated, I can certainly point you in the right direction.

First, and as others have asked me, religion is not a prerequisite. Although I am a Cradle Catholic myself, I am not aware that this has ever been a requirement. Having done at least one Camino IS a baseline requirement. They prefer volunteers who can both talk the talk and have walked the walk.

Second, as regards language skills, more is better, and Spanish is most preferred. But they will consider anyone with some skills in that area.

The language need also depends on the time of year you seek to volunteer. For example, if you work in the latter half of July and during August, Spanish is more highly valued as the percentage of arriving volunteers who speak Spanish as a first language is huge. From May until mid-July, the mix is more varied and other European languages are relatively more helpful.

For reference, to improve my survival level pilgrim Spanish, I use a Pimsleur CD course with 30 lessons that I repeat in cycle. I also use Duolingo.com every day to reinforce the spoken lessons. Each time I volunteer, my Spanish comprehension improves. I am very much a work in progress...

Third, as regards the actual process of becoming a volunteer / voluntario at the Pilgrim Office, I am repeating the content of previous posts as general post to all the forum readers who might be similarly interested. Here it is:

"To answer those who are interested in becoming Pilgrim Office volunteers / voluntarios, here is the procedure:

1. Write an e-mail to Sra. Montse Díaz at:

(NOTE: 'Mohn-say' is short for 'Monserrat,' a traditional woman's name in some provinces of Spain.)

info@acogidacristianaenelcamino.es

The message must be in Spanish. Introduce yourself. Indicate how many and which Caminos you have done, and when. I use the Microsoft BIng translator for best results.

2. Explain your level of Spanish spoken. Mine is basic, but I can communicate adequately.

3. Offer your services as a voluntario for a period of not less than two weeks. The cycle is from (about) 1 - 15 of the month, and 16 - 30/31 of each month, depending on the month.

Information of interest:

Office work schedules start on Mondays.

Volunteers generally work six days out of seven. Every volunteer has a "dia libre" (day-off). That day off can vary from week to week.

The standard daily work shifts for volunteers are: 10:00 - 15:00 and 15:00 - 20:00. This fits into the work shifts for the full-time staff. They start earlier and end later.

The 'season' starts at Easter (Semana Santa) and runs through the end of September. The "peak season" is about 15 June - 15 September. That is when voluntarios are most needed.

The weather in Santiago during June - September is equivalent to the winter months in South Florida where I live. That is to say DELIGHTFUL! That is one big reason I come to help when I do. The sun is warm, but the humidity is low. NIghts can be chilly. Rain is sparse. But, I would come anyway, and will as often as they invite me back.

You pay to get here and back, and to feed yourself. The volunteer coordinating group ACC (Acogida Cristiana en el Camino) provides free lodging.

Fluency in Spanish is not necessary, but some knowledge is. Volunteers who can converse in Spanish, or other needed languages, find themselves working behind the counter interviewing arriving pilgrims from all over the world and issuing Compostelas.

Folks like me, with a more rudimentary knowledge of Spanish, end up doing other supporting work that helps the rest of the staff, paid and volunteer, remain effective. The word around the office is that: "Tomas will do ANYTHING that is legal if you ask. If it is 'sketchy,' you need to ask real nice..."

That said, since I returned last August, I have been doing and repeating my Pimsleur CD Spanish course, using www.duolingo.com online, and listening to a series of university lectures about Spain. When I complete the courses, I repeat them...again and again...

Remember, the pilgrim flat does have an equipped kitchen, so you can shop and cook if you choose. They provide housing.

The pilgrim flat also has a washing machine, but no dryer. You spin the clothes as much as you can, then hang them on a folding drying rack. I employ 'batchelor ironing.' That is spin the clothes out using the machine, snap them open and hang on a hanger to dry. Presto! No wrinkles!

As from last September, the P/O has a new flat in a VERY historic building. All the above notes apply here. This, former vicarage, is located in the nearly 900 year-old Convento de Santa Clara de Asis (Convent of Saint Clare of Assisi), on Rua de San Roque. It has five bedrooms and three bathrooms, two kitchens, and a large salon or living room. It enjoys a marvelous overlook of the old city and the Cathedral, and is a 10-minute uphill walk from the Pilgrim Office. Google it... I toured the building before they actually took legal possession last year. It is fabulous!

Now is the time to toss your hat in the ring. Once we are into March, they have all their plans made. Remember, the early bird... I will walk into Santiago again in the second half of April. Usually, this is when I greet my old friends at the Pilgrim Office and elsewhere in Santiago, and arrange my specific dates. As soon as I return home, I make my travel arrangements.

Feel free to ask further questions. Oh, and tell Monste in your e-mail that: "Thomas, el grande Norteamericano con la barba" sent you... That is 'the big American with the beard...' I grew it on Camino last year and the family directed me to keep it.

Hope this helps.

Best regards,

Tom
Thank you Tom, very helpful (and quite entertaining :) )
Michele
 

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