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Rotary Pilgrims Arrive in Santiago de Compostela

IMG-20221002-WA0004At the start of the pilgrimage the walkers were striding out energetically calling out to each other cheerfully, but as the days passed smiling faces turn to grim determination as we see ever more of the pilgrims succumbing to aches, strains & blisters and eventually shuffling & limping along.  By the time we are in sight of the city of Santiago de Compostela we pass a thin line of the walking wounded.  It is no coincidence that we counted 12 farmacies along the Caminho into town which leads to the cathedral, all doing a brisk business in knee & leg support bandages, slings, plasters, crutches and prosthetic limbs !
At km 82 we passed a blind man tentatively walking the Caminho, he smiled as we passed calling “Bom Caminho”!  His Portuguese helper was describing to him the landscape they encountered as they walked.  These two were real pilgrims.
Pilgrim’s Passports
One of our main concerns was getting enough stamps every day into our Pilgrim’s Passport, issued in Valenca.  To validade our 6 day walk a minimum of 2 stamps were required each consecutive day in order to receive the all important Pilgrimage Certificate issued & signed by the cathedral.  We had heard that failure to obtain the mandatory 2 stamps would mean we would have to go back and start all over again with a fresh passport, but that could just have been a ploy to make us keep going….
Arrival 
From afar we caught glimpses of the gothic towers of the ancient cathedral, the third most holy shrine in Christendom. All of us were now filled with anticipation & excitement as we surged into the huge square in front of the cathedral mingling with happy fellow pilgrims all bursting with emotion & spontaneous hugs & smiles for everyone.  We could see a cross being raised in front of us by a group of around 100 teenagers jumping up & down in unison as they sang their college anthem.
I read that in the 17th Century pilgrims, on arrival at the cathedral in ecstasy, stripped off their worn & smelly robes in the square and burnt them (a shedding of the old life) and donned clean vestments issued by the church. I briefly thought of reviving this ancient tradition but hesitated as possibly this was not in keeping with Rotary’s mantra!
In Retrospect
All 10 of our Rotary pilgrims agree that our journey has been a moving experience.  We all have spent our professional lives working in diverse parts of the world and perhaps taken the very simplest things of life for granted. This novel experience is one which will be with us for the rest of our lives.
On our journey we were accompanied virtually by the school kids from the various Silves Sul Schools giving us constant encouragement and cheering their school mascots which each of us carried. Their daily messages of FORCA helped us on our way to reach our goal.  All 10 of us are now proud possessors of a certificate in Latin as genuine pilgrims having trodden the Portuguese Way from Valenca to Santiago de Compostela.

Walking through History

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Valenca in Northern Portugal, on the Rio Minho, was a truly wonderful place to start our Silves Rotary Club fund-raising pilgrimage, the purpose of which is to fund a sensory room & garden for autistic kids and others with learning difficulties.
We set off from the ramparts of the magnificent Starfort, the origins of which dates back to the 13th Century, it is the site of many important battles through the ages.

As we trudge along the well worn pilgrims way towards Santiago de Compostela we can feel a sense of history all around us. Pilgrims have been walking this very same route since the 12th Century – all drawn like magnets towards the holy site. As we walk inevitably we are overtaken my many youthful travellers who smile at us and we exchange “Bom Caminho” as they swiftly disappear before us.
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We have now finished day 2 of our 6 day journey and are at present resting at the Convento de Vilavella founded in 1554 in Redondela, Galicia.  Our stay at this historic convento was sprung on us as a surprise by our leader Phillipe – a brilliant piece of planning, so totally removed from the run of the mill hostels available to pilgrims like ourselves.
We are pleased to say that all 10 of our members are holding up well under the challenges of the terrain, not one complaint so far of any aches & pains.  The first aid backpack, which we pilgrims take turns in carrying, has remained unopened – so far – AND we’ve been blessed with ideal walking conditions through shady woodlands.  Perhaps the mascots given to us by the schoolkids are indeed lucky charms!
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Although our leader has just told us that the closer we get to Santiago de Compostela there is an 80% chance of rain….
During the Caminho’s heyday in the 12th & 13thC, pilgrims would continue westwards to the shores of Finisterre (the end of the earth) to collect scallop shells as physical proof, and a souvenir, of having completed their pilgrimage, the lines on the shells reminding them of the rays of the setting sun and the different caminhos all leading to Santiago de Compostela.
Todays modern pilgrims can collect their shells along the route which can come in very useful if, like us, you have forgotten to bring a spoon for your yoghurt or a cup to scoop up water.
You cannot help but notice that you see no returning pilgrims – they are all going in one direction only. Just a thought, when they reach Finisterre do they drop off the end of the earth – in ecstasy.

Mascots all present and correct

On Monday the Team walking the Camino visited the schools and classes that are supporting them on the walk. Each team member has a mascot presented to them to carry on their journey. Team members will post pictures, videos and stories to the children on the mascot’s adventures. The teachers will weave the mascot’s journey into lessons for the week of the walk. The walk is a fund raiser as well as an educational activity all funds raised on our GoFundMe.com page “Help Pilgrims Change Kids Lives” will go to resource a sensory room and garden for the school in Armacao de Pera.

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Pascal, Petra and Philippe receive their mascots at Armacao de Pera school with the Diretor Carlos Silva and teachers and children of E9, 10 and 11

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Pam received her Mascot named Pandora from the children of P5 and their teacher Silva with Diretor Carlos Silva.

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Jim received his mascot from the children of Tunes with their teacher George and Diretor Carlos Silva.

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Alan received his mascot from the children and teachers of Alcantarilha School and Diretor Carlos Silva. Their adventure starts on Saturday 24. Wish them luck. Help us make a difference.

Rotary Pilgrims on the Brink

Rotary Silves are on count-down in their preparations for the long 120 km march from the Portuguese border to Santiago de Compostela. All ten participants are off on regular training walks to tone up muscles which have been neglected over the covid-19 years.

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None more so than that “Dad’s Army” type pilgrim, the 82 year old David Butler-Cole. Compared to some of the younger brethren, he has had no major bodily disaster – though he does complain of Creaky Knee Syndrome. This problem is probably as much mental as physical. To boost his confidence he has recently purchased a pair of Norwegian walking poles on the internet, purporting to come from Germany. When David opened the package he found a dreaded “Made In PRC” label. Shouldn’t they have kept to chopsticks? Will the poles collapse under a gruelling day’s walk? Watch this space, and you will find out!

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David, along with the whole Rotary Silves team, have committed themselves to this pilgrimage in order to gain support from the public in their quest to raise funds to equip a much needed sensory room to help autistic children and their teachers at the Silves Sul school in Armação de Pera. Each Rotarian will be carrying the personal mascot on the walk given them by a class from the school. The kids will be able to follow the progress of the mascot through daily contact with the team.

Will you help us? You can sponsor David personally or all ten Rotary Pilgrims in aid of this good cause. All money raised will go directly to this project. Please donate now whatever you can at internet site GoFundMe.com via Rotary page “Help Pilgrims Change Kids Lives.”                          

The walk starts on Sept. 23rd and the survivors will hopefully totter into Santiago by Sept. 30. If no one makes it, you can ask for your money back!

Camino walk aids hip replacement recovery

Sue Butler Cole and Alan Winn are two of the Silves Rotary Club members taking part in the Change Kids Lives Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in a weeks’ time.

Both have had hip replacement operations earlier this year. At the end of January, Alan had a planned operation in preparation for the walk to come. Sue had one, a few weeks later after a fall that left her with a broken hip.

The desire to be part of the fundraising to enable Agrupamento Silves Sul School in Armaçao de Pêra to create a sensory room and garden area for Autistic and Downs Syndrome children as young as 3 was their inspiration to move past the painful recovery and be fit enough to take part.

Although Alan is carrying a tendon injury in his left leg he is still determined to complete his stages of the walk. He will share the 120km journey with his wife of almost 50 years Pam.

Alan

Sue is sharing her journey with octogenarian husband David who is also determined to make a difference and help those children have a better and more fulfilled life.

Sue

We hope that the walk by Silves Rotary Club members and friends will meet its fundraising target and you can help by make a donation. A donation of 5€ makes a difference when hundreds are inspired to give. The walkers themselves are funding the accommodation on route so that 100% of the money we receive will go to the project.

You can donate now at GoFundMe.com via our page “Help Pilgrims Change Kids Lives”

For more information email MOC.rotarysilves@gmail.com

Or Tel. 912584999

Help us make a difference!

Pilgrim survives major car accident.

You may have thought pilgrims went out with the Middle Ages – wandering around supported by their staffs with an unwashed aroma emanating from their soiled robes. Not so. The modern day pilgrim is an athlete striding out purposely, nose to a satnav, covering as many kilometres as possible to achieve their physical or spiritual goal.

The pilgrims of Silves Rotary Club are made of such stuff. Ready to climb mountains, swim rivers, in their quest to cover the 120 kilometres from the Portuguese border to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Ten pilgrims we are now, honed by route marches through inhospitable Algarvean terrain in burning temperatures. In the peak of fitness? Well, sort of – we are human after all – and with an average age of seventy, subject to bit of wear and tear.

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Take, for example, Jim Kennedy, brimming with energy, always striding ahead of the rest on training walks. You could count on Jim. This pilgrimage would be a doddle for him. But fate dealt a cruel blow in the form of a horrendous accident in July on a UK motorway. His car was struck by a lorry at 60 mph. He was spun from the slow lane into the lorry´s wheels and across four lanes before coming to a stop in the fast lane. It was a miracle that he lives to tell the tale. He suffered no major injury; muscle damage has left him in pain and with difficulty in walking.

Surely Jim would pull out of the pilgrimage? No! Jim says his close escape has focussed him on how lucky he was. He is glad to help fund the project to equip a much needed sensory room and garden at Agrupamento Silves Sul school in Armação de Pera to help children with learning difficulties adjust to school life.

Will you sponsor Jim and our other pilgrims? The money we raise for this project will change the lives of children and those helping them.

You can donate now at GoFundMe.com via our page “Help Pilgrims Change Kids Lives”

For more information email MOC.rotarysilves@gmail.com

Or Tel. 912584999

Help us make a difference!

Three Weeks to Go

3 Weeks to go to the Silves Rotary Club Pilgrimage

Another week closer to our pilgrimage and the final training programme is underway.  This week a 7km walk around the junction of the Odelouca and Arade rivers is our gentle reintroduction after the heat of the summer. Just one of a number training walks over the last few months walk leader Philippe has organized to get the Silves Rotary Club team fit for the challenge.

Why go through the challenge? We hope to inspire you to make a donation or sponsor a pilgrim so that we can resource a much needed sensory room and garden for Autistic and Downs syndrome children in Agrupamento Escolas Silves Sul. The children need a calm, safe haven to enable them to benefit fully from their time in school.

You can see from Philippe’s bio he is not new to the Camino having walked from France to Santiago some years ago with his family. He has also walked our route along with wife Carmen in June in preparation for the main event in just over three weeks’ time. His meticulous preparation and encouragement is all part of the support in place for those in the group who are older and carrying more injuries or health issues. We will introduce all the pilgrims over the next few weeks.

First: Philippe, mid 60s

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He says I am a new Rotary member. I retired, a couple of years ago, from an international career, mainly in Operations leadership roles. My focus was always been around developing a meaningful purpose and rallying groups to achieve their goals through intensive teamwork.

I have never stopped practicing physical activities: running 2-3 times / week until my mid 50’s and during the last 10 years, walking on a daily basis. Some heart issues required the placement of a stent and a heart ablation was needed to eliminate arrhythmia.

Why I become a pilgrim?

Our family (spouse and two children) always loved nature and hiking. We have completed the French Camino de Santiago in 5 stages, over 5 years’ vacations. This Portuguese Camino project addresses several personal objectives: a noble purpose to help disabled children, teamwork to support each participant to make it to Santiago, physical exercise and enjoyment of the beautiful nature and landscapes.

Team Member:  Petra Vahle-Francis, Mid sixties

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Petra says: Having spent over 30 years performing classical music day and night, I was curious to learn something new.  Curiosity drove me to the World Peace Academy at University of Basel, where I graduated with a diploma in Peace and Conflict Transformation, followed by a professional development diploma in conflict resolution from the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. Together with my husband, I founded the “Corridors of Peace” Organisation in Switzerland, catering for refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and all those living on the margins in different societies, home and abroad.

Luckily no major health issues yet, but had a serious fall causing dental replacement some 5 years ago. Definitely not as good as I used to be; with transition comes great challenges: in moving from Switzerland to the beautiful Algarve, I have not found a solid rhythm yet, but I will get there soon.

Why I become a pilgrim:

Since 2002 I have wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela but could not find the right time, group or persons to walk with.  On a visit to Silves Rotary Club here in the Algarve, I was lucky to experience an inspiring lecture by Philippe Pfister, who has prepared all the logistics and background information for clubs Camino de Santiago de Compostela walk, to raise funds for children with learning difficulties. I feel it is a golden opportunity to walk with people of similar sensibilities. I am grateful to join this noble rotary project.

You can donate now at GoFundMe.com via our page “Help Pilgrims Change Kids Lives”

For more information email MOC.rotarysilves@gmail.com

Or Tel. 912584999

Help us make a difference!

Help Pilgrims Change Kids Lives

Still smiling half way

A dozen members from Silves Rotary Club with a combined age of over 850 years decided to walk the Camino Portugues from Valença to Santiago de Compostela. Starting on the 24 September 2022 the pilgrims will walk some 120 km over six days to provide children with learning difficulties a calm and ideal place to learn.

Each team member will be supported by a class of pupils at the Agrupamento Escolas De Silves Sul and carry a mascot presented by their class so that the pilgrims can share their experience daily with the school children. You could say there will be 24 pilgrims.

Looking at them, you would not bet on these pilgrims making it. A couple have recently had hip replacements, one a heart surgery, another an eighty year old dodgy knee – whilst others have suffered  a sprinkling of other injuries that one picks up in your seventies – yes, the average age of the pilgrims will be over seventy. They are the walking wounded.

Why go through the challenge? You may well ask. The answer is to raise money for this fantastic cause and to inspire you to donate to us so that we can resource a much needed sensory room and garden in Agrupamento Escolas De Silves Sul.

The school needs a sensory room and garden, a calm, safe haven to enable them to benefit fully from their time in school. The dedicated teachers at the school work hard to provide the children with the necessary skills to live independently in the future.

Silves Rotary Club Pilgrims are asking your help to raise 20,000 Euros, 100% of your donations will go to turn that old classroom and scrubby garden into a harmonious learning space with all the necessary resources. Any contribution no matter how small is welcome.

Scrubby Garden

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We are inspired by John Bunyan’s famous hymn which goes

He who would valiant be

Against all disaster.

Let him in constancy

Follow the master.

There’s no discouragement,

Shall make him once relent

His first avowed intent

To be a pilgrim.

Be Inspired too. Please donate

More information in the next few weeks about the pilgrims:

You can donate now at GoFundMe.com via our page “Help Pilgrims Change Kids Lives

COOL MANOUCHE – OH SO COOL!

On Saturday 30 April, Rotary Silves gave a highly successful concert to a packed house in the Teatro Mascarenhas Gregorio in Silves. The concert featured the well-known group Cool Manouche, Playing their very special gypsy jazz, they entertained the audience royally with classics such as Django Reinhardt’s “Minor Swing” and “Nuages”.

Our thanks go to Câmara de Silves for allowing us to use the theatre. Rotary Silves donated the proceeds from ticket sales, a total amount of €3,900.00, to Agrupamento Escolas Silves Sul, headed by Carlos Silva Diretor do Agrupamento. The sum will go towards their project to build and equip a sensory room and a sensory garden in Armação de Pera to help students with learning difficulties to find peace of mind.

cheque presentation

Cameras for Online Teaching

During the recent confinements, online teaching has become the norm for students and teachers alike. A new and valuable skill has been learnt. To enable these to be shown at their best, Agrupamento de Escolas Silves Sul needed access to good quality cameras. RC Silves was able to donate two cameras to support the school in delivering online learning at its normal high standard.