Cliona’s Foundation are calling on all incoming Transition Year students and teachers all over Ireland to join them on Camino for Cliona’s 2024 after students from 11 Munster schools walk an incredible 114kms along the Camino De Santiago during an extraordinary week in Northern Spain.

The inaugural Camino for Cliona’s took place from the 5th to 11th June  when a group of 44 students, teachers and group leaders flew to Santiago in Northern Spain to undertake a huge personal challenge – the 114kms Sarria to Santiago leg of the Camino. This special trip took place after the group collectively raised over €40,000 for families caring for seriously sick children in Ireland. They then walked along the infamous Camino in solidarity with these families over 5 days. Along the way each member of the group carried the families in their hearts as well as their loved ones at home.

The effect on each participant was profound.

The Camino De Santiago is a pilgrimage rooted in medieval origins, also known as The Way of Saint James,

and has grown in popularity in Ireland and internationally. It leads to the tomb believed to be that of the Apostle Saint James the Greater, in the crypt of Santiago de Compostela Cathedral.

The team at Cliona’s Foundation knew that a great strength comes with an achievement like doing this walk and that strength is unshakable, building res ilience and realisation in all who take part.

These are skills and friendships that are important to encourage in our remarkable young people.

While fundraising for families the students are then rewarded with a remarkable opportunity to journey to Spain.

35 Transition Yearstudents took part this year from 11 schools in Munster including Mungret Community College, Gaelcholaiste Luimnigh, Laurel Hill, Laurel Hill Colaiste, John The Baptist Hospital, Colaiste Iosaef Kilmallock, Scoil Pol Kilfinane, Salesians Pallskenry, and from Cork, Colaiste Mhuire Buttevant, Scoil Mhuire Kanturk, and Colaiste Mhuire Crosshaven.

The trip was so rewarding and special that Cliona’s Foundation are calling on schools all over Ireland to join them on the journey in 2024.

Joining the group from Salesians school in Pallskenry was transition year student Alex Bennis from Killaloe in Limerick. Alex spoke of how special the trip was and of how much she learned from the whole experience: “This was an amazing trip and an amazing opportunity. We all truly made so many friends and memories which we will treasure forever.”  

Accompanying Alex and her school mates was teacher Grace Sheahan: “The trip was incredibly special for me as a teacher, watching the students embrace and grow with the challenges and fun that the journey entailed. I was so proud of the students walking with special purpose. It’s something I know the students and I will never forget. I’m really looking forward to doing it all over again with another incredible group of young people.”

The students from the various schools had not met each other in person until they travelled to the airport on the morning of the flight, having only met through Zoom throughout the year. However, friendships were formed at lightning speed as their collective adventure began. They carried stones in memory of Cliona Ring and all the children who have succumbed to illness, and for their own loved ones at home. When they arrived in Santiago De Compostela the group walked together to the Cathedral and threw their stones into the famous fountain. The sense of purpose and accomplishment between the group made for emotional scenes in the square!

Dara Lynch, a student from Colaiste Muire Crosshaven says the trip was unforgettable “The Camino De Santiago walk was a trip I’ll never forget. We walked 114kms over 5 days from Sarria to Santiago. It was an incredible experience for a great cause. I met loads of new people that I became friends with over the space of a week. We had so many laughs and made so many memories to last a lifetime. Although the walk was tough at times it did’nt really matter as we were having too much of a good time to care. For anyone thinking about doing the Camino I’d say definitely go for it because you won’t regret it!       

Co-Founder of Cliona’s Terry Ring spoke of the emotional journey and of her own personal gratitude, saying: “It was a privilege to accompany this remarkable group of young people, leaders and teachers on our inaugural Camino for Cliona’s. We are so grateful to the schools, parents and communities who supported the student’s fundraising efforts. The journey itself was truly inspirational and lifechanging.  For me personally the trip was very special. I am so looking forward to 2024 and encourage any school to get in touch to learn more about joining us next year”.    

Having witnessed the benefits to both the families Cliona’s support and to the students who take part, Cliona’s are aiming to grow this annual event nationally and are calling on all schools to get in touch to learn more.