Meet Santiago Seseña Rodriguez, a longtime hospitalero whose lifetime dream of an albergue of his own finally came true in 2018.
Santi runs the Albergue de Peregrinos de Izarra, a 20-bed private operation on the Camino del Norte, just east of Comillas. Santi´s a Madrid native who for years worked alongside Jose Luis, the charismatic hospitalero at Albergue San Francisco Asis in Tosantos. Like his mentor, Santi is a talented host and a quietly spiritual guy.
The Izarra albergue was founded in 2016 by Alex, a former taxi driver turned Camino apostle. He started Albergue Bodenaya, still a landmark of generosity on the Camino Primitivo, as well as a couple of other non-profit pilgrim establishments. If you visit Izarra, you may meet Alex -- he still serves as a volunteer hospitalero there sometimes.
I met Santi a year ago, when Peaceable Projects installed new picnic benches and tables in the garden outside the Tosantos albergue. When I heard that Santi had taken charge at the Izarra albergue, and that he was freezing this winter in its un-heated garret, I got in touch.
He´d heard about the pellet stoves at Santa Cruz in Sahagun, he said. He didn´t know a privately owned albergue qualified for Peaceable funds.
Public, private, or parochial – it´s the donativo spirit that makes the difference! Can a pilgrim stay there if he has no money? Is there a genuine need for the prospective project? If the answer is a proven “yes,” then sure! Peaceable donors are here to help!
I asked Santi to get some builders´ estimates. And just about then, a friend at Canadian Company of Pilgrims sent an email. “We have money left from last year,” she said. “It´s burning a hole in our pocket! What´s the next project on the Camino?”
Canadians know about cold, and about keeping warm. They are fabulously generous, and they know how to move fast. It was a perfect match.
Soon as Santi found the right builder and had a figure in hand, I touched the Canadians for a cool 3,000 euros. The British Colombia branch gave 1500 euros, and the national group gave 1,500 euros. Beauty!
The money arrived today. The installation works will begin after Holy Week.
I never even had to pass the hat!
Big thanks to Canada. And for supporters who are not from there, we´ve used funds from our past fundraisers and our monthly donors this winter to buy a washing machine and vacuum cleaner for a pilgrim shelter in the mountains of Leon, some downspouts for a little place on the San Salvador, and maintenance supplies for the Pilgrim Memorial Grove.
More projects, big and small, are afoot. Thanks to YOU, the Camino keeps chugging along.