You've walked the Camino francés. Perhaps you've walked one or more of the other routes as well. The Camino is in your blood and you're now trying to think of what the next stage of your Camino life could be. Have you considered giving back to the Camino as a volunteer albergue host? Those who have gone on from walking the Camino to serving as hospitaleros say that this experience is in every sense a Camino of its own.
You will find on this page a number of items related to hospitalero service:• General information about serving
• Hospitalero training through American Pilgrims
• The Hospitalero News
• Hospitalero-related sites
• Hospitalero training through other organizations
Other volunteer opportunities on the Camino:
• Ribadiso Welcome Service
• The Pilgrim Welcome Office in Santiago
• Terra Nova Pilgrim House in Santiago
General information about serving
Many walkers on the Camino carry a strong sense of being part of a stream, a stream of humanity or even a flow of history, moving ever westward. As an hospitalero you become a rock in that stream. The rock stays in place and a drop of water hesitates briefly and then moves on, leaving the rock to interact with the next drop and the next and the next. You provide the resting place where fellow pilgrims can stop and renew themselves in body, mind and spirit.
Generally speaking those responsible for albergues look for volunteers who have walked the Camino and who have taken an hospitalero training course. There is a preference for persons with serviceable Spanish language skills—and ideally another language as well (thankfully English will serve very well for that!). But having said that, there are exceptions. Some albergues find themselves with a gap in their schedule or occasionally an hospitalero must leave due to an emergency; your willingness to give back to the Camino through enthusiastic volunteering may be your most important skill.
What is it like to volunteer as a hospitalero? Your most important duty will be to serve as host to a steady stream of peregrinos. This will involve providing a warm and sincere welcome to all pilgrims. Sometimes it will involve listening, sometimes conversing. It will mean being a resource for advice on such matters as first aid or other medical care (not necessarily actually dispensing care), knowing where to buy supplies, when and where church services will be held, what lies ahead on the trail. You may find yourself in the role of confessor, psychologist or advisor to the lovelorn. You may become responsible for organizing evening meals for any number of hungry pilgrims. You will be up with the peregrinos in the morning and you may turn out the lights in the late evening. And there will of course be washing sheets, cleaning toilets and showers, mopping floors, sweeping outdoor areas. You may be the one to order propane and cleaning supplies, or to do the accounting—you may feel like you are running a small business. You will certainly find yourself part of a local Spanish community or village, and community relations will be important. Most formal hospitalero assignments are for a half month; informal ones might be only for a few days. You will likely have little time off during your tenure. In short, this will probably be one of the most intense, and intensely gratifying, experiences of your life! Still sound like something you'd be interested in?
Hospitalero Training through American Pilgrims
If you've been looking for a way to say thank you for all that the Camino has given you, look no further than American Pilgrims on the Camino and its hospitalero training courses. Registration for training sessions will generally be announced two or three months in advance and if you're a member of American Pilgrims you'll automatically receive e-mail announcements about these opportunities when they are available. A reminder that in order to take part in this training:
American Pilgrims' next training session is Friday, February 3 through Sunday, February 5, 2017 at the Presentation Center, Los Gatos, California. Registration is now open! You can download the information sheet by clicking HERE. And remember, training is always held the Tuesday through Thursday immediately preceding the national Gathering of Pilgrims. Why not become a member and you'll receive announcements of registration automatically!
Do you know that there is an Hospitalero Training Scholarship Program? And an Hospitalero Service Grant Program? The goal of the American Pilgrims Hospitalero Training Scholarship is to make participation in the organization’s hospitalero training financially feasible for all members of American Pilgrims. See the American Pilgrims' Grant Program page for details and application information. On that same page you will also find information about the Hospitalero Service Grant Program.
For some insight into the sense of fulfillment, there is an interesting YouTube video about volunteer hospitalero service that has snippets of interviews with the late Don José María of San Juan de Ortega, Don Jesús Jato of the albergue Ave Fenix and the Confraternity of Saint James' Marion Marples.
If you would like to contact American Pilgrims for more information about becoming a volunteer hospitalero or if you have specific questions about our training, please contact the hospitalero training coordinators at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click HERE for a list of albergues where hospitaleros may be posted through the Federación Española de Asociaciones de Amigos del Camino de Santiago.
The Hospitalero News
The Hospitalero News was a periodic newsletter published by American Pilgrims between December 2011 and November 2013. It was filled with information about training and service on the Camino. But don't let the use of the past tense alarm you! The information and stories that previously appeared here have been integrated into the association's full newsletter, La Concha. Check it out!
Among the various Camino sites and forums there are some hospitalero-related areas:
Hospitalero training through other organizations
In addition to the training offered by American Pilgrims in conjunction with its annual Gathering of Pilgrims, training is available in other countries. See our International Events page for more information about these opportunities. We know that we have not listed all available courses here and we would like to be apprised of others. Please contact our webmaster.
Ribadiso Welcome Service
American Pilgrims on the Camino announces the 2016 Ribadiso Welcome Service, a volunteer opportunity for American Pilgrims members at the Albergue of Ribadiso do Baixo, an albergue operated by the Xunta de Galicia on the Camino de Santiago.
Volunteering at Ribadiso is a unique experience. Volunteers care for the pilgrims by welcoming them to the albergue, answering their questions, providing information about the immediate area and about their arrival to Santiago, offering a listening ear, and directing pilgrims to healthcare resources, if needed.
Volunteers must be members of American Pilgrims on the Camino and be in good health and physical condition. Training as a volunteer hospitalero or experience in the former Amigos Program in Santiago is helpful but is not necessary. Spanish language skills are highly recommended.
Sound interesting? Click HERE for a document with complete information.
The Pilgrim Welcome Office in Santiago
For most peregrinos arriving in Santiago, after a few tears, the celebratory photos in front of the Cathedral and perhaps the call to back home, the next stop will be the Oficina de Acogida al Peregrino (the Pilgrim Welcome Office) to obtain the compostela. The Oficina offers the opportunity to be part of this significant part of the pilgrim's journey.
Terra Nova Pilgrim House in Santiago
Terra Nova Pilgrim House is a welcome center in Santiago de Compostela, where pilgrims can find community, conversation, prayer and help with their practical needs. We offer gathering places for pilgrims, practical services such as laundry and a kitchenette, and quiet spaces where pilgrims can reflect on and process their Camino. Volunteer duties would include welcoming pilgrims and helping them feel at home; helping out with laundry, backpack storage and printing boarding passes; being available to talk with pilgrims who need a listening ear and cleaning. The term of service is a minimum of one week and a maximum of a half month. In order to help us provide quality service, volunteers must have received a Compostela. At present, Pilgrim House cannot offer lodging or food to volunteers.