From 15 to 30 July, 2017, I volunteered in a beautiful, brand new albergue on the Camino Portugues, 8 kilometres south of Santiago de Compostela, in the village of Milladoiro (map).
The construction of this albergue was the brainchild of the local parish priest. Funding came from a local family who has wished to remain anonymous. The idea behind this project was that the albergue should provide employment and work experience for unemployed local people and for people with disability.
The day to day running of the albergue is in the capable hands of Loli, who takes care of administration, and of Angeles, who keeps the albergue in its pristine condition. They are helped in their endeavours by, among others, Franc and Antoñi.
As a volunteer, I helped man the phone and take reservations. Angeles, who communicates by sign language and lip reading, cannot hear the phone ringing, so she needs someone to be there when she’s on duty.
I helped with cleaning the public areas of the albergue when needed. I also did duty in the beautiful old medieval church of Santa Maria Magdalena, situated at the entrance to the village. Pilgrims, on the final stretch of their camino, visited the church to get their last sello before entering Santiago de Compostela, and to sit for a moment in prayer or in quiet reflection. Sometimes they wanted to just rest and have a chat outside in the little square. It was interesting to meet people from so many different countries. Everyone has his or her own story to tell and it was good to provide an ear.
I was lucky enough to be in Milladoiro for the feast of their patron saint, Santa Maria Magdalena. I participated in the procession and the Mass to celebrate the occasion and I had the privilege of being invited to the cena, or party, which took place in the little plaza alongside the church, when the religious ceremonies had been completed – a most sociable and joyous event.
I enjoyed my stay in Milladoiro. I got the opportunity to befriend many people, both those from the village and the pilgrims passing through. If it were not for my volunteering I would never have had that experience. I firmly believe that those of us who volunteer “get back what we give” and much, much more. If one can give the time, it is certainly to be recommended.
Nóirín Uí Mhaolaoí