Woman stood in front of a cathedral wearing a Royal Free Charity t-shirt.

Maria raises vital funds on the Camino trail pilgrimage

In October, Maria and her friend Trish set off on an inspiring journey along the Camino trail pilgrimage, fulfilling a lifelong dream while raising £3,000 for the Royal Free Charity.

Covering 290 kilometres, from Porto in Portugal to Santiago in Spain, Maria and Trish walked an average of 20-25 kilometres each day over two challenging but rewarding weeks.

The Camino de Santiago is a network of pilgrimage routes leading to the shrine of St James the apostle in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Two women in coats stood outside in a paved area between shops and houses.
Trish and Maria began their journey in November 2023.

Maria’s efforts gained support from family, friends and strangers, with her grandchildren proudly sponsoring one month of their pocket money towards her fundraising target.

The pair faced many challenges, from cobbled streets and steep rolling hills to heavy rain, wind and torn rain ponchos. The weather, described as the worst in years, failed to dampen their spirits.

Two women stood outside together in front of a country lane, wearing waterproofs.
Trish and Maria faced some of the harshest weather conditions seen in years on the trail.

Maria said: “I decided to fundraise for the Royal Free Charity to show gratitude for the help and support my husband Jim and I received from medical teams at the Royal Free Hospital, after his diagnosis with liver cancer and subsequent liver transplant.”

Other walkers felt a connection with Maria’s journey, leading to unexpected friendships and donations. Becoming friends with people from different places made Maria’s journey even more special.

Memorable moments included reading messages of encouragement left by fellow walkers, and seeing people help others who were struggling on the trail, which highlighted the kindness and solidarity among those taking part.

Their triumphant arrival in Santiago marked the end of their journey, but not before a gruelling 29-kilometer walk.

The completion of Maria’s journey in Santiago was met with emotional reunions with family and friends and followed up with a cathedral service. Maria said, “The memories, photographs and extraordinary people will be cherished for a lifetime, I will never forget the kindness, and love I have encountered along the way.

“I had a brilliant time meeting extraordinary people experience such kindness and love from my family, old friends and new ones seeing beautiful countryside and having time for myself was a gift. Maybe I’ll do it again.”

Lead image: Maria marks the end of her journey at Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain.