Egeria House – Version 3 or so …

When I moved in May 2017 to Santiago de Compostela, I had no idea how many ‘versions’ of Egeria House I would experience. First came the ‘hospitality version’ when pilgrims would either stay with me and/or just come by in the afternoons for a chat over tea or coffee. 2018 we added the chaplaincy version and in 2019 we extended the chaplaincy programme and our ecumenical relationships here in Santiago. And 2020 can only be described as the ‘online version’ …

Empty box that needs filling …

But 2020 has also seen, for me personally and nothing to do with the Camino as such, a completely new ministry that ‘somehow’ entered my life. Egeria House is not tied to a certain building, for me, it is a way of life. A way of sharing what I have, space, time, and food. Some of my favourite memories are those of shared meals among pilgrims, chaplains or to put it more simply – among friends. It will be a while until that is possible again!

Nearly a year ago I moved into what was meant to be my winter 2019/20 flat, needless to say, due to Covid-19, I am still here in the San Pedro neighbourhood. The flat is in a very mixed part of Santiago, all from the comfortable middle class to the desperately poor. Just 100m down the street from me lives, for example, an extended family of Roma, who, in normal times, you would see begging around the cathedral and in Old Town. When we were all put into lockdown, the Red Cross delivered food to them, but when lockdown was eased, this stopped.

Early on this year, I had already put out a box with surplus items, see, so I guess that gave people the confidence to ring my doorbell when things got hard for them. Slowly, slowly the number of people increased who were ringing the bell. Most of them are Roma, some of them a neighbour that ‘has run out of XYZ’ over the weekend, sometimes, I see somebody dumpster diving for food in the rubbish container before the house.

Part of the pantry, more in the fridge …

Yes, Spain has a social security system, but people are still falling, and in ever-increasing numbers, through the gaps. What started with buying a bit more of everything and keeping bread, cheese, and similar in the freezer compartment for somebody in need that passes by, feels now like running a one-woman-neighbourhood food bank. And I am happy with that.

The decision to take the box into the house entrance had its disadvantages but also enabled me to know what my neighbours really need instead of wildly guessing it. There is, for example, one woman that has diabetes with many complications, she needs bread without salt, others need mainly fresh fruit and vegetables, others can’t afford to buy diapers/nappies for their children, others need face masks as they could get fined by the police if they go out without one, others …

Rarely a day goes by when the doorbell doesn’t ring, more often it’s twice or thrice per day. By now, I know most of them by name, I know if they have a working kitchen or if they only have a microwave to cook with, I know whom to give the saltless bread for my diabetic neighbour to and I know which size of diapers/nappies the families need. Sometimes I smile when I go shopping as my list is getting each week more varied. Oh, and thankfully our local Froiz supermarket does home deliveries, that saves me from shlepping heavy stuff like milk cartons or jars of canned vegetables home.

A typical delivery …

And I know that I am not the only one doing this, or similar things, here in Santiago. Quite a lot of small initiatives like this are now addressing needs in their respective neighbourhoods. Sometimes it’s a one-person set-up, sometimes it is a group of people, sometimes a mixture of both, like in my case. Back in July, I mentioned the situation here on a small German Camino forum I run, several people offered to help with donations. Back then I said, I manage, mainly thanks to a Facebook fundraiser I ran this year in May and the income I still earn as a freelancer, but at the beginning of October I took them up on their offer. Other friends also chimed in. So, whilst I do the shopping and distributing, I am not the only one paying for everything myself, I have help.

As many of you might know, I am a huge Terry Pratchett fan. My favourite Discworld characters are the witches, which rarely do real magic. Instead, they strike me as old-fashioned community nurses and midwives that go around the houses with the following philosophy:

“Filling what’s empty and emptying what’s full.”

Or, if you prefer a more Christian interpretation, I share with you a short bit of a sermon I once heard:

“The real miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000 wasn’t the multiplication of the loaves of bread and the fishes, it was to get everybody to share the food they had already in their pockets.”

Much better!

Yes, the donation button is back, since today, in the top right corner of this website, but what would make me really happy is if more people would do something similar, all over the world. This winter will be so hard on all of us and on so many different levels, but if everybody does her or his little bit by:

  • Letting your neighbours know that you are there for them.
  • Sharing your time and resources with them, please with a face mask worn and keeping a safe, physical distance.
  • Decluttering your wardrobes and donating the clothes you haven’t worn in ages.
  • Joining or starting neighbourhood initiatives.

Then we really can build a better world for ourselves and those around us. I leave you with these words by Mahatma Gandhi:

“The world has enough for everyone’s needs, but not everyone’s greed.”

6 thoughts on “Egeria House – Version 3 or so …”

  1. “PS Not so sure about the angel bit …”
    I am.
    And you definitely qualify.
    Can you please send your details to @VNwalking so I can arrange a transfer?
    Gracias for all you do!

  2. Any way I could contribute $20./Cdn by credit card? I don’t use Paypal. Thanks, fondly sandi

    1. Thank you Ingrid! It goes in the Christmas cookies/turron jar for the neighbours 😉 BC SY
      PS Not so sure about the angel bit …

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