Most Spain lovers, and definitely the avid hikers, would be familiar with the “Camino de Santiago”, the pilgrimage walk known in English as the Way of St. James. In fact, Focus Ireland, the non-profit organisation dealing with homelessness, does an annual fundraising trip to do this walk. This year due to Covid-19 they may not be able to do it, which represents a huge loss of income for the registered charity.

Instead, they have come up with a virtual alternative for the last section of the Way, known as the French part, which is 114Km long and they have named it quite appropriately “Camino de Quarantine”.

Basically, each virtual participant creates an individual fundraiser page where they set their own goal in terms of how much money they want to raise and then they keep accumulating the kilometres they walk to keep track of their progress while collecting donations.

By logging in their distance walked, they receive updates about the towns that they “virtually” approach and different information relating to the walk like walking notes, recipes of foods typical of the areas they are “passing” and even recommendations of books to read, films to watch and even playlists to keep you motivated during your Camino experience.

Finally, they will get their “virtual” Camino passport stamps, not unlike the stamps on the actual trip, and once they are all collected and the goal of their fundraiser amount is reached, Focus Ireland issues them with their very own Camino de Quarantine certificate of completion. Quite clever, if you ask me.

I found out that my friend Sheila Cotter, a Lanzarote resident, is doing this challenge. I caught up with her to find out more.

Hi Sheila, how are you?
Not too bad, and yourself?

Ah sure, you know, going through the motions like everyone else. Tell us a bit more about yourself, Sheila.
Well, I’m originally from County Clare in Ireland. But I have lived in the island for 10 years now.

And how did you end up being a resident here?
I was here on a holiday with my partner, who everybody knows as JK, and we were simply offered a job. I fell in love with the people in Lanzarote first and then I fell in love with the place. I had been made redundant at home, so it was like the stars aligning themselves for us to start a new life. The rest, as they say, it’s history.

Good stuff. I know you are an eager walker at the best of times…
Yes, I find I walk more if I have a motivation for doing it just than simply to keep fit. For example, doing it for charity gives me the extra will power to literally walk an extra mile.

Why did you decided to do this particular challenge?
I had done other walking challenges in the past. I have even organised a couple of walks in Lanzarote in aid of Cancer charities for which a considerable amount was raised. Local people, friends and family were ever so supportive and generous! Not to forget the local businesses’ contributions which kept us fed during these two 25Km walks I did with a bunch of friends about five and six years ago.

Since the pandemic I have taken part on two “virtual” charity walks: one for AFOL, the Lanzarote Cancer Charity, to raise awareness and one called “Cuénta conmigo – Kilómetros X Alimentos” which for each marathon walked or run, 5Kg of food were donated to Las Palmas Food Bank. I am very proud to say that during the length of this challenge, which was about a month, I managed to accumulate the distance of more than 3 marathons. And I joined the challenge quite late!

I was looking for another challenge to do and I couldn’t find any currently active to help local charities but I came across this Irish one. Homelessness is such a serious problem not only in Ireland due to the pandemic. It’s scary to think that millions in the UK and America, to name just a couple of examples, are just one paycheck away to being homeless.

It certainly is! Well done for doing your bit to help with this global problem. How does the challenge actually work?
Well, you register for free on the Focus Ireland website, you get your fundraiser page set up where you both log in your walks and accept donations on it.

You basically set up your own amount to raise too. I want to do more than the 114Km in 5 weeks, I intend to do 300Km and raise €300.

That works at €1 per kilometer. It sounds doable!
Yes, my plan is to walk 10 kilometers a day, 6 days a week so I aimed to be finished on the 25th of February. I prefer to walk in the morning as I find if I get it out of the way early enough, I have the rest of the day to do other things. Also, once you reach your goal on the virtual challenge, you can upgrade it to a higher amount. The challenge remains open for 6 months too.

How long does it take you to walk those 10k?
It takes me about two hours. The weather is so much nicer that back in Ireland, it’s really a joy to be able to do it here.

Where do you normally take your walk?
I live in Puerto del Carmen, so normally I walk up and down The Strip. For previous challenges I have walked towards Puerto Calero but I find that a bit challenging on my legs. So I try to stick to flatter routes now. To mix it up a bit I’m started exploring the back streets of Puerto del Carmen. It’s a great way to get to know areas that I didn’t know before.

Well, you have my admiration for doing this challenge. Fair play to you and good luck with this and any other fundraiser walk that you decide to undertake.

At the moment of this article being submitted some €20,000 have been already raised by over 130 people who have done collectively over 8,400Km so far. It certainly proves the power of joining forces, every contribution no matter how small counts towards the greater good.

We wish Sheila all the best with her contribution to Focus Ireland from sunny Lanzarote.

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Sheila’s Camino de Quarantine – Fundraiser Page: https://virtualcamino.focusireland.ie/fundraising/sheilas-camino-de-quarantine
Camino de Quarantine’s FAQ: https://virtualcamino.focusireland.ie/faq
Focus Ireland website: https://www.focusireland.ie/