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Monday, March 20, 2017

5/6 March - Durban Hospitlaeros Training Course

We planned on 12 people and ended up with 13 trainees, 2 trainers, and 3 hospitaleros.
It was a fun weekend and great to have 6 people travel from Cape Town to do the course.

Every course helps us to learn and expand on the different aspects of the course.

For instance - first aid.
Many doctors, nurses, therapist, healers walk the Camino.  They can offer their help to other pilgrims on the Camino if necessary but treating illness and injury are actions the Federation insurer will NOT cover in the albergue policy.  Even if you (the hospitalero) is a doctor, nurse, physiotherapist, Reiki master or quantum healer, you are not covered to treat pilgrims in the albergue unless in a case of emergency or dire need. 

If a medical emergency arises, do what is done on an airplane or ship: call out to see if there is a medical professional in the house – often there is.  If you don’t think you can handle something, don’t start. Medical help for pilgrims is readily available at the Health Centre. Take the pilgrim there or arrange to have someone accompany them for this purpose. EMS help is available by calling 112. 

Perhaps you practise esoteric spirituality such as Tarot Card or psychic readings, or you are a medium and can speak with the dead.  We must remember that Spain is a Catholic country and over 50% of the pilgrims that stay in albergues are Spanish Catholics.  Another 25% Catholics come from neighbouring Portugal, France, Italy and Germany.  90% of Korean pilgrims are Catholics. 

As a psychic you are on a different spiritual path and these talents are fine practised on the Camino, but not readily welcomed in the traditional albergues, most of which are owned by the Catholic Church or Catholic organisations.  

Respect the religion and beliefs of the Country and especially the albergues where you serve.






HOSPITALEROS VOLUNTARIOS IN SOUTH AFRICA

HOSPITALEROS VOLUNTARIOS IN SUD AFRICA

In 2008 Rebekah Scott and Tom Friesen developed a prototype of an online hospitaleros training course in English.  The intention was to offer it to English speaking pilgrims who live in countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa who did not have training programs in their countries.
In 2009 Sylvia Nilsen was asked to test the course by completing the weekly online assignments.  For various reasons (one being that it is better to do face-to-face training with pilgrims than long-distance training) this course was never adopted. 
Sylvia walked to Finisterre in September 2009 and served with Begonia from A.G.A.C.S (Gallego Assoc) for a day at Finisterre before serving for two weeks at San Roque albergue in Corcubion.  When she returned home she applied to Ana Barreda of HOSVOL to run courses in South Africa.  She combined the online course assignments with the Canadian course material provided by Tom Friesen and Mary Virtue into a two-day training schedule. Courses have been held each year in a different city since 2010 and in 2014 Jenny rooks joined her as a Hospitalero trainer.  From 2010 till now, 108 South African pilgrims have been trained at courses held in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town. Almost half of these have served in Spain, some more than once, and a few have served in Portugal. 
We do not know how many pilgrims from South Africa walk the Camino each year but we think it is probably between 1000 and 1200.  Last year (2015) 808 South African pilgrims received a Compostela.
Learning to speak Spanish is one of the biggest challenges facing volunteers from South Africa.  There are 11 official languages in South Africa and most South Africans can speak more than one language, but very little Spanish is spoken. We are told that a papal decree of 1493 assigned all land in the New World west of 50 degrees W longitude to Spanish explorers and all the land east of that line to Portuguese explorers.  So, there are many Portuguese speakers in South Africa but few Spanish speakers. 
Getting to Spain, and to the albergue, is a long and costly journey for people from South Africa.  It is 11, 765km from Cape Town to Valladolid and can cost over €750 to fly to Spain.  Fortunately there is no time difference between South Africa and Spain. 

Sylvia Nilsen

2017

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

INTER-HOSPITALERO RELATIONS

Part of the Hospitaleros Voluntarios (HOSVOL) training course is a session on INTER-HOSPITALERO RELATIONS - getting on with your fellow hospitalero. 
The exercise we do is to make trainees aware of a growing problem of hospitaleros not getting on and sometimes leaving their post because of continued strife.
 
Trainees are taught to set a few ground rules before their shift even starts.  They can ask their co-worker these questions:
  • Are we going to be flexible on opening times - if yes, how flexible? 
  • Are we going to be flexible on the curfew - ditto? 
  • What time will we admit cyclists? 
  • Are you a morning person or a night bird?  Let’s come to some agreement about who does the morning shift and who locks up at night – or can we alternate?
  • Will we share the cooking?
  • One day you do the bedrooms and bathrooms  -  I’ll do the kitchen and living rooms.  Then we can swap.
  • What things put your back up or push your buttons. 
One lady told me that she doesn't like it when people prepare food using bare hands and would prefer it if they used gloves.  Another said that she doesn't like it when someone tries to be the boss and treats her like a subordinate.  By knowing what can irritate your co-worker, you can try to avoid those issues.
Those sorts of things seem small but they can become a big hassle, especially if you are locked in for 15 days with a grumpy, moaning, bossy, controlling, fault-finding co-hospitalero.  
The most frequent complaints received are about bossy hospitaleros who take over the albergue and rule the roost. 

JOY:
Oh my goodness,  since midday yesterday I have asked myself, a 1,000 times - what are you doing here?  Ferran does not like his routines or methods challenged - my suggestions, of music in the morning to send pilgrims off, bleach to clean the dishcloths and perhaps new mats to place in front of the kitchen sink and one or two others all for the pilgrims comfort, was squashed or rejected.  Thankfully he left yesterday and the two new hospitaleros are far more amiable.

 
ANNA:

I arrived at the Albergue just when the last pilgrims left and introduced myself as the new hospitalera from S.A.  "Hola, hola! come estas! Soy Anna Kapp" I said.
Well, that made them think this one could speak Spanish and off they go with Gara-Gara-Gara, (my version of their fast speaking Spanish), I was shocked out of my tiredness. 
"No entiendo"  I said.
"Mama Mia!!" Mariano (old guy) threw up his arms.
All 4 hospitaleros (Mariano, Antonia, Vladimer and Maria) looked disgusted turned around and left me standing there.  From then on they ignored me . No problem, I was there to do a job.
Maria came back, took me to our cubicle with just a double bunk bed, cramped with her stuff all over the place, said I sleep on top and that she keeps the key around her neck till she leaves in 4 days.
 
MOYRA:
It was fine for the first two days but then 'HE' arrived - the anointed one - and immediately took over and started moving things around and changing things.  He is an experienced hospitalero who has served at Bercianos many times and considers it to be HIS domain.  He was extremely rude to me because I wasn't fluent in Spanish (Madeleine's course didn't prepare me sufficiently for the Camino!) even though I told him I could speak French, understand German and Dutch - which he couldn't.  Whenever a non-Spanish speaker arrived he would have to call me to register them.  One of the other hospitaleros asked him why he couldn't speak English but he was just rude back at her. 
 
PAM :
If anyone wants to know what its like to be treated like a 2nd class citizen or skivvy, then go and work at the Santo Domingo albergue.  I was bossed around, ran up and down stairs all day, was sent out to do shopping and was supposed to be a tour guide for the cathedral and the town. 
 
Even experienced hospitaleros like Rebekah Scott can have an unlucky pairing, as she wrote on her blog:   Hell is Other People
 
A year later, when another hospitalera was having similar problems at the same albergue, she wrote on her blog:
"I was paired with The Queen of Passive Aggression, and spent two weeks in misery and desolation, shivering through damp, gray days with wet firewood, a sinus infection, and a perfect bitch from London.  (Paddy says it´s a syndrome: Person of a Certain Age outlives the spouse, who´s been bossed around for decades (or said spouse finds a more gentle partner). POACA is a righteous churchgoer, does the Camino. And as Hospitalera s/he finds a new niche: Lording it over a pilgrim hostel for two weeks per year, fixing everything that´s wrong with the Camino de Santiago.)"
 
"I can see both sides of this issue. Even though most volunteer teams get along just fine, the Coordinators (themselves unpaid) are probably full-up with personality conflicts. Volunteers must know there´s a mixed bag of people out there, and some strangers just don´t gel with others. They have to just scrape along somehow, tolerate, smile on through. Unless, of course, someone gets abusive."
 
How to deal with a bossy co-worker: 
Smile, stick to your guns, say 'No' if you know that you are right and the other person is wrong.  Smile again.  
You could say, “In this case, I don’t agree with you” or “No, I don’t think that’s the best way to do it.”


 
I have served with 7 hospitaleros and am happy to say that I got on well with all of them, even though one of them was a bossy, controlling woman!   But I guessed she would be on the first day we met.  There is a saying that 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree' and this could be true of your co-worker if she tells you that her mother was a bossy, controlling and domineering woman.  Listen to the alarm bells going off in your head and be prepared to stand your ground!

My bossy co-worker  told us (Robert, Kevin and me) on her first day that she'd been alone for 27 years, had raised her children on her own and was an occupational health nurse so was independent and able to take care of herself.  When Robert and Kevin left, they both looked at me with some pity and said, "Good luck with  this one, Syl.  She is going to be trouble." 

But, I don't like strife.  I have a dogged personality, have been told that I have the patience of Job.  I am able to stoically fend off bossy people, so when she tried to be domineering, I just brushed it aside.  We never had words or disagreements but the potential for them was there in the relentless fault-finding and criticisms:  

"I always do it this way...."   
"That's interesting.  I do it this way."  Smiling. 

"I don't think we should admit cyclists," 
 "Of course we can - all pilgrims are welcome here," smiling.

"I don't think you should have given that pilgrim our water. You must keep the water for our pilgrims.""All the pilgrims are our pilgrims. We give water to any pilgrim who arrives here thirsty," smiling.

"Don't you think you've cut too much bread already?"
"No problem - if there is any left over we can toast it at breakfast tomorrow," smiling.

"Don't boil anymore milk, there was some left over yesterday"
"No problem - I'll use it in my Cola Cao," smiling.

"Its too early to set the table.  The flies will settle on the plates."
"No problem, we can turn the plates over and I'll cover the table with a cloth" smiling.

"You or I could've had that apple, you didn't have to use it in the salad."
"Actually, it is my apple and I wanted to share it with all the pilgrims," smiling.

And so on, and so on ..... incessant bossy quips and suggestions on how she liked to do things that could have lead to full scale confrontation if not handled properly.

My advice: 
Don't retaliate but don't become a doormat by giving in and then sulking about it.   If someone is bossy that is their problem, not yours, so don't make it yours.  Continue doing your work, sing or whistle whilst doing it, and don't give them the satisfaction of buckling or rising to their bait.  Whatever you do don't argue in front of the pilgrims.  This is their Camino (not yours) and they don't want a lasting memory of squabbling hospitaleros.
Concede small things.  If she prefers to say grace at the table, let her.  If she prefers large lettuce leaves in the salad to your broken up leaves, take it in turns to make the salad.  If she doesn't like onions, lentils, chickpeas or beans, or any other products that you think are staples,  find a way around that and serve them separately. 

Hospitalero-ing is hard, physically, mentally and spiritually.  When you are tired from lack of sleep, long hours of physical work, listening to heart-breaking pilgrim's stories and feeling homesick, you can be vulnerable to criticisms and unkindness.  Go for a long walk when your chores are done, meditate, find a quiet place and read inspirational quotes, anything to restore your soul and your body. 
And remember, your co-worker is going through the same thing, so unless she has been a real bitch to you or the pilgrims, or has been intolerable, don't report her to the supervisor beyond a suggestion to warn the next hospitalero who will serve with her that she is inclined to be bossy.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

SYLVIA NILSEN - HOSPITALERA IN SAN ANTON - JUNE 2015

Humbling email from my fellow, Spanish hospitalera, Angela:

Dear Silvia,
I'm glad to have met you, thanks so considerate and kind you were with me. I want you to know that I would love to have you as hospitalera partner because you're the hardest-working, dedicated, kind and loving I have met in the 13 years I've been in hospitalera.
...
Querida Silvia
Me alegro mucho de haberte conocido,gracias por lo considerada y amable que fuiste conmigo.
Quiero que sepas que me encantaría volver a tenerte como compañera hospitalera porque eres la más trabajadora,entregada,amable y amorosa que he conocido en los 13 años que llevo de hospitalera.

http://amawalker.blogspot.co.za/

ANNA KAPP - DURBAN HOSPITALERA IN NAJERA MAY 2015


On the 8th May 2015, between delayed flights due to the Yemen war, Emirates landed in Madrid 8:25pm.  My night bus ride left for Logrono at 1:15am and arrived at 5:00am in darkness with me being very car sick from the various bends  on the road. At 6:45 I left for Najera.  My walk from the bus terminal to the Albergue de la Asociasion de Amigos del Camino de Najera ( being a donativo albergue), was such a pleasant surprise all along the river and surrounding hills of this beautiful little town.
 
I arrived at the Albergue just when the last pilgrims left and introduced myself as the new hospitalera from S.A:- "hola, hola! Coma esta! Soy Anna Kapp" I said. Well, that made them think this one could speak Spanish and off they go with Gara-Gara-Gara, (my version of their fast speaking Spanish), I was shocked out of my tiredness. 
"No entiendo Mama Mia!! Mariano (old guy) through up his arms. All 4 hospitalero's (Mariano, Antonia, Vladimer and Maria) looked disgusted turned around and left me standing there.  Maria came back, took me to our cubicle with just a double bunk bed, cramped with her stuff all over the place, said I sleep on top and that she keeps the key around her neck till she leaves in 4 days. No problem, I was there to do a job. 
 
I volunteered to clean the kitchen which was in a mess.  The pilgrims cook their own meals and have to clean up afterwards, but yes, that obviously was not a priority. We then had the standard breakfast of toast fresh pulped tomato with garlic, olive oil, fresh orange juice and boiled milk coffee.
 

I just started with my duties straight away and they did their part. Valdimer was in charge of the washing of the bed covers/pillowslips and everything else  to go in and he tidied the beds, swept the dormitory.
I also mopped the dining room floors. The rest was Mariano, Antonia & Maria's job.  By +/- 11:00 am we were finished.  They went on outings, I stayed and did my own thing. It was difficult if they did not speak English. Vladimer was polished and could speak a little English.
 
They took me sight seeing the first day and lunch was free at one of the restaurants  allocated by the owner, but the men made their own lunch and by that time it was 2:00pm, intake of pilgrims (usually +/- 90), the kitchen was a mess because I had to clean up before we start the admin side. I had to let the pilgrims in, made them feel welcome, try and get order out of the chaos because space was limited.

Mariano, Antonio, Maria did the booking in and Vladimer got to allocate and show pilgrims their beds. Believe me,  not an easy task with so many, and all 45 double bunks in one big dormitory.
Mariano slept in the corner on a bottom bunk in the dormitory and Antonio & Vladimer had the laundry room with a double bunk.
When Maria left, Theo a Mexican who could speak English / Spanish took over from her, he was nice.
 
Mariano and Antonio left on the 14th May and Robin Pardy (Canadian) arrived , she also spoke English/ Spanish and we clicked straight away. She took over Vladimers duties. Then Nunsie, the elderly Italian lady came. She could not speak English and very little Spanish, only Italian. She smoked and did not want to do it outside.  We had a rough time with her. We could never figure out what she was up to. She and Robin really went at each other.  She also had to share Theo's room, no other way.  Theo did not mind, and it worked out okay.
 
The weather was up and down, quite cold and some rain too. I had to dig in the pilgrims basket for a man's fleece jacket, because I did not take warm clothes. a pair of walking poles were left behind and I borrowed them as well, because I could not fit mine into my backpack.
 
The washing was done on a rotating system, where 3 pairs of bedcover/pillow slips per day had to be washed within a 15 day period and then start all over again. Space and washing machines were just not enough, but it worked out okay.
 
Many pilgrims were Taiwanese and Korean.  One evening we were woken by a drunk Korean guy who had not booked in, but we could not turn him away, so we made a bed on the floor, just in case he fell out of the bunk.
 
Another night, Robin got up, just to find 2 pilgrims having sex on one of the dining room tables, stark naked.  She was furious and they were upset because she chased them to their beds.
 
There were 4 gypsy's with their dogs. We allowed them to shower, gave them food and the police took them to the campsite to sleep the night, we could not accommodate the dogs.
 
Every scenario that was discussed and role played during the hospitalero course, had been thrown at us.  The owner Antonio, his wife and other family members came every night to collect the donations and leave money in the kitty box. They were very supportive/ generous and kind.
 
On Saturday/Sunday, we had a cleaning lady and we could go and do our own thing until 2:00pm.  One day Robin and I walked to Asofra, +/- 13km and back to have coffee (next town on our Camin trip). I loved to go for long hikes around Najera.  There was a little coffee shop in the Square by the church, where I got free wifi and also sent my Whatsapps. We had great fun in the evenings, with music and singing, the pilgrims loved that.
 
On the 21st May, Vladimer left and Manual arrived, he played the guitar and there was an American girl who did the singing that night.  It was a great party and at 10:00pm I could finally close the kitchen door, but it was not any easy task, as with the cooking and cleaning, I had the responsibility of letting it flow smoothly.
A Taiwanese mother cooked up a feast, but used the kitchen for 2 hours, I had to ask her to please hurry, as pilgrims were queuing already. Shame she gave me a packet of oranges afterwards.

The next day, the 22nd May, Robin and I were both feeling down and tearful. I hated the idea of leaving my good friend behind for another week in Nunsie's company. I did went back and said hello when our group stayed over in Najera the 24th May on our "Complete your Camino" walk.
 
I do want to stress that learning to speak Spanish will help a lot with communication. I was thrown into the deep end on my first hospitalero assignment and would definitely try again.
 
I learned a lot about myself, how to handle difficult situations and to cope with it.
Najera was a great experience and I enjoyed being a small part of it.
The reason for the weekly overlap and change of the hospitalero's was that I started on the 8th of the month and not on the 1st or the 15th, which is the normal way.
 
Anna Kapp

Thursday, February 12, 2015

HOSPITALERO TRAINING IN DURBAN AND JOHANNESBURG 2015

Training will take place in Durban on 21/22nd February.

In Johannesburg on 2/3 May.

Please contact us if you would like to do the course.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

HOSPITALEROS TRAINING - WHY??


Recently, on a Camino forum, someone asked the question:
“Why should I have to do a training course to volunteer as a hospitalero?  I know how to scrub toilets and make beds, so what is the big deal about training?”

‘Serving’ in a traditional Spanish pilgrim shelter is not the same as ‘working’ in a B&B or hostel, or running your own home. The physical labour involved might be the same, sweeping, mopping, scrubbing toilets and making beds but when you work in a B&B you don’t have to welcome the guests as though you are welcoming the Lord Jesus Christ himself!   

 Hospitaleros have always followed the Rule of Benedict (53rd Chapter) which is dedicated to the reception of guests:

“Let all guests that come be received like Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you took me in.  And let fitting honour be shown to all, especially to churchmen and pilgrims. … All humility should be shown in addressing a guest on arrival or departure.”

In Benedict’s time and down through the centuries it was common, particularly in Europe, for pilgrims to use monasteries as places of rest and shelter while travelling. Monasteries were seen as safe havens where a person would be welcomed regardless of his religion or his ability to pay.  The hospitaliers and hospitaleros of the 12th century confirmed this tradition of welcome in the Latin hymn, the La Pretiosa, which is read out in Roncesvalles:

Its doors are open to the sick and well to Catholics as well as to pagans,
Jews, Heretics, beggars and the indigent, and it embraces all like brothers.

Whatever their religion or spirituality, hospitaleros are trained to act with compassion, acceptance and caring towards all pilgrims so that they may be beacons of light, comfort and hope for all pilgrims. 

Before starting the training course, the trainee is asked the question: 

“Why do you want to be a hospitalero?”

The majority reply that they want to ‘give back’ to the Camino the hospitality and care they received in the albergues when they walked the Camino.   Some say that they want to be on the Camino again but not necessarily to walk.  Others say that they want to learn to speak Spanish.  One’s motive is important.  If you are looking for free lodging on the Camino in return for a bit of housework, you should not be a hospitalero.  HOSVOL is not looking for mere domestic help!

 Running an albergue looks like a breeze to the pilgrim who’s there on a good night. The food is prepared communally, maybe a short prayer or song is offered, and then everyone cleans up and goes to bed. When the pilgrims leave in the morning, the hospitalera stays put. She seems to get all the benefits of the Camino – great company, scenery, food, and Camino vibes – without the worries of wet weather, blisters, and “the bed race.” All she’s got to do is put out a fresh toilet roll, chop up the vegetable for dinner, and stamp everyone’s credential. What could be easier?

Whilst serving as a hospitalero isn’t rocket science, there are a few things that you need to learn before you can take charge of an albergue and run it for two weeks – probably on your own.  Can you read the indicator on a Calor gas cylinder used in most albergues?  Do you know how to check the levels of the fire extinguishers?  What are the insurance regulations – can you have extra pilgrims lying on the floor? If the electricity fails or plumbing clogs up, would you know what to do or who to call?  Who would you call in case of a medical emergency?  Will you be comfortable asking all those seemingly unnecessary questions about age, profession, country of origin in 10 different languages?  Can you shop to cook for 20, 30 or 40 people?  Are you happy to conduct a blessing?  Can you do basic first aid?  These are some of the skills you’ll need to run an albergue.

I send a short article to all prospective trainees, which was sent to me by the Canadian hospitalero trainers, called ‘A Rock in the Stream’.  The first paragraph reads:

 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 a 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 before they move on.”

The hospitaleros training course has been compiled by HOSVOL - Hospitaleros Voluntarios - of the Spanish Federation of Friends of the Camino which was formed in 1987.  It is important for them that all trainees are taught their way of welcoming pilgrim, treating pilgrims and running the albergues they send you to.  They only serve the ‘donativo’ (donation only) albergues. 

The first session is devoted to the transition of the pilgrim to hospitalero. When you’re a hospitalero, many pilgrims you’ll meet are bursting with all the new experiences and insights they’re gaining on the trail. They are in the midst of what may be a life-changing hike. They’ve spent the day walking or biking or riding, and now they want to talk (or cry, or complain, or be left alone)!    And here’s where you first feel the shift from pilgrim to Hospitalero.
 
The pilgrim talks - the hospitalero listens.

The pilgrims arrive, and the hospitalero receives - and tries to meet their immediate needs.

*** IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU ANY MORE ***

You may be back on the Camino, but your role has changed. And now it’s no longer your role to rehash your own experiences, but to accept the pilgrim as she is, exactly as he or she walks through the door.

Acting out a series of over 30 role-play scenarios as pilgrim and/or hospitalero, trainees have to solve problems that are faced in albergues every day.  You learn about communication – with pilgrims, with the community and with fellow hospitaleros.  Inter-hospitaleros relations are so important that it takes up a whole session.  You learn how to deal with the drunk pilgrim, the tourist looking for a cheap bed, couples having sex in the dormitory, bed-bugs, theft, an irate local café-bar owner or a pilgrim who has collapsed.  You might feel like evicting an arrogant pilgrim, being rude to the café-bar owner, or throwing a bucket of water over the copulating pilgrims but this is not the HOSVOL way!   

The albergue may well be supported by the locals´ tax payments or church contributions.  The hospitalero must be seen outdoors, sweeping the sidewalk or tidying the greenery.  Trainee hospitaleros are taught the importance of “spreading the wealth” which means that they do not shop at the same stores or lunch at the same cafés every day.  They do not recommend one shop over the other even if one is superior.  The whole village should be benefitting from having the albergue there.  (This is not something that private albergue owners need to be concerned about).

In a donativo albergue everyone is welcomed and nobody is turned away (unless there are insurance regulations about the numbers that can be accommodated). As hospitalero you can’t pick and choose who to interact with. You have to deal with everyone.  Everyone - every day! Even those you might not take to right away.  (You can take comfort in the knowledge that they will all move on the next day!)

Private albergue owners charge a fixed amount for a bed and for a meal.  They are entitled to do this and the pilgrim is happy to pay.  Donativo albergues are not in competition with the private albergues, all are providing a service to the pilgrims. In a donativo albergue the hospitalero will unobtrusively show where the donation box is and mention that the albergue is able to offer a service through the donations given by pilgrims. 

In some albergues an ‘oracion’ or blessing is offered by the hospitalero.  Occasionally a priest may arrive and ask to hold a mass. They have this right to offer the religious service. The pilgrims have the right to accept or refuse it.  If you are uncomfortable providing a religious blessing, consider a secular blessing.  In some albergues the names of pilgrims who have stayed at the albergue previously and are still on the road are read out. It is also possible to form a circle and turn to the next pilgrim and give them your wishes for them in your own language.   In others, like in Tosantos, pilgrims take a prayer request from a box which is read out by a pilgrim who reads that language and everyone present says a silent prayer for the pilgrim.  In Hospital San Nicolas, the hospitaleros wash the pilgrim’s feet during the blessing. 

Hospitaleros are taught not to equate the amount of money in the donation box with the quality of the service they provide!  This is a very hard lesson to learn, especially if you work really hard,  go the extra mile, put flowers on the table, offer refreshments as the pilgrims arrive, cook a fabulous meal which everyone raves about and then find a few measly euro in the donation box.  If this makes you feel irritated or disappointed, reassess your motives for serving.  The donation box is not your business.   

When you are a hospitalero at the local pilgrim hostel you are more than a foreign volunteer, you are the living representation of your country, or even your continent. You are also seen as part of the Federation or Confraternity, and part of the pilgrimage itself. 

Year after year, a few basic, traditional albergues make it to the top 10 of the best, most spiritual albergues on the Camino.  Some have no running water, electricity or beds.  But, they have a tradition of warm welcome, caring, tolerance, camaraderie and respect.  Many offer special pilgrim blessings.  Even the most perfect, luxurious modern structure is nothing without these qualities and it is up to the hospitalero to provide these qualities.   

Some sites for further reading:  Also check out Facebook hospitalero pages.