By Matt D’Arcy
Fourteen days after setting off on her 240-mile marathon charity walk from Cape St Vincent, West Algarve resident Christina Vandermeulen arrived in Fatima—one day ahead of schedule!
Christina, 61 and from Belgium, decided to make this personal pilgrimage to raise funds for the poor children of Aljezur.
It was an ambitious project as it meant walking a distance of 397km (240 miles) as the crow flies, or anything up to 450km (270 miles) depending on any variations or detours along the route she mapped out, passing through Odeceixe, Sines, Setubal, Lisbon and Santarém.
Christina, who lives in the west coast community of Vale Da Telha, Aljezur, kept an online diary on her Fatimacharitywalk Facebook page and last weekend she was able to triumphantly announce:
“Yes! Yes! I did it. Bem feito (translation: well done). I have made it!”
On this final day of the walk she wrote in her diary:
“Today started well, because we had a good night and a good breakfast, and a lot of pilgrims were on their way, so I was not alone.
“It was hard but nice, I made some friends and also I was lucky to walk with some other people as we travelled the road to Fatima.
“Leo (her husband, who drove ahead to prepare rest points and overnight stays) was looking out for me, because he knew that I was tired. So it’s done. Bye, bye”.
This was a double mission for Christina.
Firstly, she set out to raise funds for the poor children of Aljezur, specifying that she wanted to help a deserving LOCAL cause.
The charity for which the funds are destined is Conferência de Nossa Senhora D’Alva, Aljezur, a purely local division of the international St Vincent de Paul Society, set up to help local people in urgent need of support.
Her second reason is more personal and all the more poignant for that.
Forty-two years ago, in 1973 when Christina was just 19, her first child, a son named Lieven, died at the age of only 16 months. He would have been 43 this month.
With the heartbreaking memory of that tragedy still fresh in her mind when she became pregnant in 1977 with her daughter Veronique, Christina—a Catholic—made a vow to the Virgin Mary that if her baby was born healthy and survived she would one day make a pilgrimage of thanks for the life of her child.
That pilgrimage is now completed, her promise kept.
Christina will conduct a final totting-up of funds raised when she returns from a trip to Belgium on May 17th and anyone wishing to do so can still contribute and help her hand over a sizeable cheque to the charity to reward her for her incredible courage.
Christina has opened an account in the name of the Charity at the BPI bank in Aljezur and you can make your donations to the following Account Number:
BIC : BBPIPTPL
IBAN : PT50 0010 0000 3948 2281 5023 3
She has also placed those collection boxes at various businesses in and around Vale Da Telha, so please continue to give generously…
Christina’s contact details for those wishing to make donations:
Christina Vandermeulen: Tel: 96 665 0079