Seachange Foundation Walk the Camino de Santiago for ‘The Brave Hearts Project’ in Ethiopia

Earlier this year Seachange was delighted to announce its support for a new microcredit project – Brave Hearts Project in Ethiopia.

In August of this year myself , Dave Gribben and a group of wonderful supporters and friends of Seachange walked the final 120 kms of the Camino de Santiago for Seachange Foundation’s latest microcredit project – Bravehearts – Ethiopia. This was for some of us our 2nd time walking the Camino for Seachange and was my 3rd time to do the last leg – at my age I was happy that my own legs lasted the pace as the last time I walked was 2 years ago for Seachange and the pins and myself were two years younger!!!

This year we raised much needed monies through and want to sincerely thank all those who kindly donated and supported Seachange  – the site is still live for anyone who would still like to donate – just search for Seachange Foundation – please please please donate if you can – doesn’t matter how much – any little help would be great –

As a Grandmother to my two beautiful grandchildren the project we were walking for this time really tugged at my heartstrings.  On behalf of the 42 brave grandmothers involved in this project and trying to set up their own small businesses to fend for their orphaned grandchildren I would like to express our gratitude for your continued support of  Seachange Foundation /Brave Hearts

Brave Heart’s primary focus is supporting economic community development and employment as well as support of children and young people and education and training.

 Providing women with microcredit to enable them to set up income generating opportunities has shown to have a tremendous impact on women’s health, education, poverty levels and family wellbeing.  Studies have also shown that investing in girls and women helps to prevent the likelihood of early marriage and violence.

Brave Hearts proposes to train 42 women guardians of orphans supported by Brave Hearts to generate their own incomes. Most of the guardians are grandparents of the orphaned children, while others are foster parents to the orphaned children and are daily laborers. Income generating activities have shown to be very successful with the chances of families investing in a better life being quite high.

The women will be trained on small-scale business management such as dairy farming, poultry, construction and bakery.  Not only will this have a direct and immediate impact by uplifting these guardians and their families’ quality of life, these methods provide simple and sustainable solutions to livelihoods.

The following is my attempt to give you a flavor for the wonderful week we spent on the Camino.   Last time we walked for Seachange we walked the ‘French Way’ from Sarria to Santiago – This time round we walked the ‘Portuguese Way’ from Porrino to Santiago.

What a week!  The collective overall impression was that we had spent a special time with very special people doing something special for those who really need something special in their lives.  We had an inspirational, fulfilling, wonderful and funfilled week and raised much needed monies which are now on their way to Ethiopia to the community that makes up Brave Hearts.

We all agreed that we were up against the heat somewhat with unusually high temperatures for that part of Spain prevailing for the entire week.  We did have one morning’s respite when we had a glorious deluge of beautiful cooling rain.  Who said the rain in Spain stays mainly in the Plane?  Well we beg to differ it is not so!!! It came down in magnificent bucketfuls that lovely morning and as a group of 8 Irish people who are obsessed with weather and usually moan about the rain we were sooooooooooooo happy to see it and feel it’s cooling droplets on our skin.

Some blisters on the tootsies and a few other injuries including a nasty bang to Dearbhail’s leg on the last day served to ‘pepper’ the experience just enough to prove that we had been walking for 5 days but these were not enough to spoil a fantastic experience and one that we all hope to repeat.

The first day’s walking started at Porriño and full of enthusiasm, vim and vigor we started out for  Redondela a total of 18 kms which was to take about 5 hours. As the younger and fitter ones proudly strode out in front,  the two elder lemons aka Calamity Kate and her much more fit and trusty sidekick Terrific Thora brought up the rear!  The racehorses who were ‘chomping at the bit’ arrived in record time!  The ‘also rans’ eventually arrived at our overnight stop a tad later than the rest of the ‘field’  having taken an unscheduled detour – Giving her ‘post race’ interview a defiant Calamity Kate said………“Hey we were enjoying the blistering heat and blistering feet sooooooooo much we decided to take the scenic route and walk a further 4 – 5 k – just for fun”!!!

 Next day and we were back on the road for 2nd day walking – Redondela – Pontevedra Following the coastal inlet of River Pontevedra and Ria de Vigo, before climbing up to Alto da Lomba.  This was a beautiful walk through lanes and woodlands………..all was serene and idyllic until Calamity Kate came a cropper – so to speak – She was so enchanted by the woodland sounds, sights, heady scents and most of all sooooooooo grateful for the shade provided by the lush forest canopy overhead that she momentarily lost concentration and tripped over a tree root!  What an ignominious end to her reverie!  She landed without much grace but rather spectacularly  in a in an undignified heap facedown in the dirt. Trusty and Terrific Thora, who was slightly ahead, responded immediately to the thud on the forest floor that she had felt through her boots and came rushing to Calamity Kate’s rescue – armed with a packet of wet wipes – so she could inspect the damage!!! – thankfully there was little – mostly hurt pride and what turned out eventually to be torn ligaments/tendons in her hand  – when Thora and a kindly passer by managed to get the ‘calamitous one’ to her feet she limped through the forest aided by TT and hobbled to our overnight stay  – bruised, (mostly around the ego!) battered but certainly not broken!  Turns out Calamity Kate was not the only casualty that day as Fearless Freddie had also been ‘taken to the fair’ by the enchanted woodland atmosphere and had had a rather serious run in with a pesky low hanging tree bough which gave his poor ol head a right knock.

Both patients exchanged and measured the seriousness of the days injuries over the customary evening ‘wind down’ and a libation for the shock (!) and on balance thankfully agreed that neither were unwell enough to put off joining the healthy ones for dinner and some delicious Galician wine – for medicinal purposes you understand!

 Calamity Kate unfortunately had to admit temporary corporal defeat and was forced to take a rest from walking the next day while Dave, Dearbh, Shane, Thora, Maddie, Andrew and Freddie headed out for what turned out to be another very long and hard trek to the spa town of Caldas de Reis for overnight.  Calamity Kate took the day to lick her wounds but was lonely and missed the gang so much that day the she decided it was much better craic walking and soooooooooooooo….

 Next morning we all headed out for Padron walking again through woods – we made our way uphill to the hamlet of Santa Marina and then downhill to the river Fontenlo and along the pine tree lined road to Padron for overnight.  We made the fatal mistake of celebrating our arrival into Padron a little further back the road and rewarding ourselves with a nice cold beer or 2 (ahem!)  in the shade – lots of cheerzing each other and telling each other we only had one more day of walking in front of us and weren’t we all just great and yadeyadeya and no mishaps today at all at all!  –  alas we did not realize that we had another 4 kms to hike to our overnight stay on the other side of the town!  Hot Hot Hot, hungry too and now with a few beers on board!  All too exhausted to do much we plumped for the hotel meal that night and bed early as we had decided to start out before sun up for our final assault!

 Our last day walking took us from Padron – Santiago  – a long, hot and tiring day passing through many Galician villages and hamlets before arriving at the sanctuary of A Esclavitude.  “Are we nearly there yet……………..are we nearly there yet………………are we nearly there yet?” – the internal sing song from all but all the while we were spurred on by the lure of what we knew was to come as we entered the square at Santiago!   After about 6 hours walking we passed by some of the oldest crosses in Galicia and caught our first glimpse of the towers of the cathedral in the distance from Agro dos Monteiros – and at long last we finally passed the castle of A Rocha Vella before entering the city of Santiago.

Everyone had played their own unique, generous and wonderful part in our journey – firstly there were our families and our supporters and those who sponsored Seachange and the Brave Hearts Project –Then there was the Magnificent 8 – our walking gang amongst which there were the jokers when we felt less than amused, there were the encouragers when we felt we were wilting, there were the amazers and amusers, restaurant finders and wine choosers, the dandy debonair dressers and the storytellers and philosophers who helped shorten our daily journeys. Sometimes when we needed ‘serious’ there were the more experienced and steady ones who always said the right things and made the group feel safe and secure , there were meditators who took time out to commune and ‘take in the beauty’ of the experience, there were the kind and gentle and caring ones and always there were the two wonderful younger people – beautiful, brave and wise beyond their years who daily bowled us older ones over with their loving nature, their grace and their absolute grasp of life and the things in life that are really important.  You all know what part you played and who you are and we thank you so much for being part of the Magnificent 8!

Yes we were all our own people separate and individual but as One Dave, Dearbh, Shane, Maddie, Freddie, Andrew, Thora and myself made our joyous and dare I say for some ‘triumphant’ entrance into Santiago – exhausted but excited, fatigued but fulfilled, glad and grateful and sooooooooo very happy we had finally arrived!

We walked into the square together and hugged and some of us even shed a tear or two unashamedly– all around there were complete strangers smiling and greeting each other like long lost friends – it was all very emotional.  All in the square had achieved the same goal and having completed what was sometimes a real challenge we all eventually ended up in the very same spot – gazing up at the magnificent Cathedral – and it struck me as I marveled at the scene in the square that we are all on the same road, the same ‘camino’ going in the same direction –  You, Me , our Gang and the Brave Hearts in Ethiopia – some roads are soooooooooooooooo much harder than others and recognizing that and trying to do a little to help out our fellow ‘pilgrims’ is something we have been privileged to be a very small part of this summer – I cannot fully explain in words  the feeling you get when you walk into the square in Santiago it really needs to be experienced at least once in a lifetime – I am fortunate and grateful to have experienced it three times and it never ever gets old – we are currently recruiting for next year’s walk and have signed up few takers already – so watch this space and if interested please contact me on 086 2585148 – Kate

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