The following was posted by the American Pilgrims on the Camino and give us an idea of what the current state is for the training and serving at albergues in Spain.
All of you have completed the hospitalero training program of American Pilgrims on the Camino, which follows the training curriculum of the Federación Española de Asociaciones de Amigos del Camino de Santiago (the Federation). Many of us are eager to know whether serving on the Camino might be possible in 2021. On December 12-13, 2020, veteran hospitaleros who volunteer through the Federation held their annual encuentro on Zoom. Anai Barreda, the volunteer who has coordinated placement of hospitaleros in the network of Federation albergues for many years, addressed some of the most pressing questions in the following remarks, which have been translated from Spanish and paraphrased for clarity. Bottom line – patience and hope.
The American Pilgrims Hospitalero Training Team
When registering for this encuentro, some hospitaleros expressed interest in the Federation’s plans for 2021. Many others outside our group who are interested in the Camino de Santiago are watching us as well.
As is the case in our respective countries, we do not know what awaits us in the coming months. The Federation Hospitalero program has assumed that we are willing to serve pilgrims as was done in some albergues during 2020, but it is also clear that we have to wait. The hopeful news about vaccines against Covid19 allow us to hold some expectations but everything is still uncertain.
Will we be able go to the albergues? We have had excellent experiences in 2020 in 4 albergues -only 4 albergues- that were opened to serve pilgrims. All the others remained closed and, at the moment, we do not know what their owners are thinking about reopening. These decisions will be made at the beginning of the year; we believe that more albergues will be motivated to open but perhaps others will decide to wait even longer. As we continue to be interested in what they are thinking as well as their fears and needs, we must be very patient and we hospitaleros must not put any pressure on these owners who have many other responsibilities. They know (because we have informed them) that we are ready to reopen and have had experience with receiving and welcoming pilgrims in other places in spite of the coronavirus and that the results have been good.
How many hospitaleros will we need? This is a question that we can’t answer now. We aren’t concerned because our group of Hospitaleros is a force of volunteers like nowhere else on the Camino. But the reality is that the uncertainties facing us present a barrier to adding new hospitaleros to the extent that we have up to now.
How many new hospitaleros can the organization “absorb”? Two questions affect the answer to this question. One, what will be the need for hospitaleros at albergues when we still do not know if they will open or not. Another is whether it is possible to offer training courses for new hospitaleros.
Will it be possible to conduct training courses in person? If we offer courses in person, it will be necessary to find places that allow distancing in the classroom and in the sleeping and eating areas. All of you who are present at this encuentro know that the characteristics of hospitalero training courses and the content itself are completely opposite of what health measures require in the current situation. Social distancing is not a part of hospitalero practice; neither among those who attend the courses nor when we welcome pilgrims. Our practice is to receive and welcome pilgrims with closeness and personal contact. That’s why the relationship of hospitaleros and pilgrims has been difficult this year. Those of us who focus on the organization of the courses and their delivery do not see a possibility of online courses because the uniqueness of our training can’t be communicated from the solitude of our homes.
Will the contents of the workshops change? Again, difficult to answer. It is evident that as long as we do not fully return to normality, and until Covid19 is a globally controlled disease, we will have to continue imposing distance, prevention and disinfection measures and these things will be added to the course. But - and this is the most worrying thing - everything related to our way of welcoming that based on closeness and physical proximity will be prohibited until further notice. How can we explain that listening and hugging are fundamental parts of our style of welcome (and a fundamental part of the success of our program of Hospitaleros on the Camino) but now we can’t do any of that?
Do we search for another different approach? We think not. After the holidays, the situation will have to be faced. We will see what we can add to our course that complies with health regulations, but communicates to new hospitaleros that a traditional reception on the Camino is still possible in spite of current difficulties because the attitudes expected of a hospitalero continue to be valid. However, we have to find a way to substitute other “charms” for a time. Perhaps some of the hospitaleros who have served during this year’s lock down can give some advice.
Will hospitaleros be asked to be vaccinated against Covid 19 in order to serve at an albergue? Will the pilgrims be asked? Vaccinations in Spain are not mandatory according to current laws, so we will not ask any hospitalero for a certificate showing that they have been vaccinated against Covid19, nor will we ask the same of any pilgrim that we welcome while we serve. However, we do recommend vaccination to avoid Covid 19 similar to other vaccinations against diseases that are available in the Spanish healthcare system