Ribadiso Welcome Service
Serving Your Fellow Pilgrims at Ribadiso
Volunteering at the historic albergue at Ribadiso, Spain, is a unique opportunity offered to members of American Pilgrims on the Camino by the Galician government.
Ribadiso is located on the Camino Francés about 40 kilometers before Santiago de Compostela in the verdant Galician countryside.
Volunteers are expected to care for pilgrims by welcoming them to the albergue and being available to assist them during their stay. Because of the way albergues are managed in Galicia, volunteers have a fair amount of free time to engage with the local population, explore or work on their own projects.
Volunteering at Ribadiso
Ribadiso Welcome Service
If you seek a way to give back to the Camino, the Ribadiso Welcome Service may be for you.
American Pilgrims on the Camino has a special relationship with the Galician government to provide volunteers at the historic Ribadiso albergue, which originally was a 15th-century pilgrim hospital. Located on the River Iso, this municipal albergue is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful on the entire Camino Frances. Some refer to it as “Ribadiso Paradiso.” About 40 kilometers before Santiago de Compostela, the albergue has 60 beds plus an additional four beds reserved for pilgrims with disabilities.
Ribadiso volunteers welcome pilgrims to the albergue, offer them water, show them to their assigned bunks, provide information about the albergue’s facilities (showers, coin-operated washers and dryers, hand laundry sinks and clotheslines, common room) as well as tell them about the village. Ribadiso has a privately run albergue; a pensión; and a restaurant/bar adjacent to the municipal albergue. The albergue has no WiFi, so volunteers direct pilgrims to the restaurant/bar, where they’re able to access the Internet.
Volunteers also offer information about the surrounding area. The nearest supermarket and pharmacy are in Arzua, a three-kilometer walk away. Two additional bars are about a kilometer away from the albergue in either direction along the Camino. Answering questions, listening to pilgrims who want to discuss their Camino joys and sorrows, helping resolve problems such as locating a pilgrim’s backpack that was sent to Ribadiso but hasn’t arrived are other aspects of this experience.
What's a Ribadiso Volunteer's Day Like?
Pilgrims must leave the albergue by 8 a.m. Volunteers remove the disposable sheets, do light sweeping of the albergue and collect anything left behind for the donativo shelf. These chores take minimal time. Until the albergue opens at 1 p.m., volunteers are free to engage with the local population, explore the area, and work on their own projects. Recent volunteers fed their food scraps to a farmer’s chickens every morning and some days picked up trash along the Camino.
Volunteers do not register pilgrims, collect fees, cook meals for pilgrims or conduct prayer services or other spiritual get-togethers. As part of the network of Galician albergues, Ribadiso has paid staff who register pilgrims, accept their fees and clean the albergue. The Xacobeo, the regional government agency in charge of Camino matters in that area, supervises the operation of the albergue.
- Volunteers serve in pairs. The Ribadiso Welcome Service committee will match volunteers if you are not volunteering with someone you know.
- Volunteers must be members of American Pilgrims on the Camino and be in good health and physical condition. As a requirement to enter Spain, volunteers must be vaccinated against COVID-19.
- Hospitalero training and/or experience in serving pilgrims in the Pilgrim offices in St Jean Pied du Port or Santiago de Compostela are helpful but not required.
- Spanish language skills are highly recommended. The committee works to ensure that at least one volunteer is a Spanish speaker. Abilities in other languages are a plus.
- Volunteers commit to a 15-day period of service, for the first or second half of the month. In 2023, American Pilgrims on the Camino will provide volunteers from May 15 to October 15.
- Volunteers are responsible for travel expenses to/from Ribadiso as well as food and incidentals while volunteering in Ribadiso.
- American Pilgrims on the Camino provides each volunteer team with a small stipend to cover the costs of cups for water, wrapped hard candies and clothespins that the team makes available for pilgrims.
- Volunteers have use of a furnished two-bedroom apartment with kitchen, bathroom, eating and living room areas at no cost to them.
- Volunteers are expected to keep the apartment tidy and to leave it in good shape for the next team of volunteers. Only volunteers in the program may stay in the apartment and only during their time of service.
If you thrive on the intense experience of being “on” 24/7 while multi-tasking at an albergue, organizing a meal and a spiritual service, Ribadiso is NOT for you. We recommend that you instead become a trained hospitalero and serve in one of the Spanish Federation’s albergues or one run by another organization. Check the American Pilgrims on the Camino website for hospitalero training dates and locations.
If you have further questions about the Ribadiso Welcome Service, please email Ribadiso@americanpilgrims.org. The application period for 2023 will open in late December 2022 and be announced to members of American Pilgrims by email. Completed applications must be received by January 27, 2023. The application process includes a Zoom interview. We will notify volunteers selected for the Ribadiso Welcome Service by March 10, 2023.
Photos below are courtesy of Steve and Carol from Lancaster, PA, who served at Ribadiso in 2022.