Four Fordham students will undertake a 250-mile pilgrimage for an international charity this summer while earning University credit.
The students will be walking with other Fordham students as part of a Fordham course, “Study Tour: Medieval Spain” offered by history professor Richard Gyug, Ph.D. The course gives students a chance to trek the Camino de Santiago trail in northern Spain from May 24 to June 7, studying the medieval architecture and history firsthand. The pilgrimage draws tens of thousands of travelers each year because Santiago de Compostela is the legendary burial site of the apostle, James the Great. The route was one of the most renowned Christian pilgrimages during medieval times.
For each mile the students walk, they will be raising money for Pilgrimage for Our Children’s Future, (POCF), a New York-based charity that funds education and health care for impoverished children in developing countries. The charity was founded in 2006 by Chris Lowney (FCRH ’81, GSAS ’82) to help fund Jesuit-supported grassroots charities in Africa and in the Philippines.
The participating students are Kevin McGarry, senior at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, Laura Jensen, senior at Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH), Scott Farrell, junior in the College of Business Administration, and FCRH freshman Joseph Bertrino.
“Being able to actually walk through these towns and visit the monasteries just seems remarkable, more than I could get out of a book,” said Bertrino, an honors student who recently studied medieval history, literature and philosophy. “But raising money for POCF gives the walk even more purpose, it adds an element of responsibility to the trip.”
Bertrino said he was additionally motivated to be a fund-raiser because, as a freshman at Regis High School, he had worked to fund one of the POCF’s target charities, the St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School for AIDS orphans in Nairobi, Kenya.
This year’s pilgrimage marks the second year that Gyug has offered the summer course through Fordham’s Center for Medieval Studies. The students will leave from Leon and average 15 to 20 miles per day. Along the way, students will share their thoughts on the journey through a University-sponsored blog, Fordham Camino 2008.
The four students got interested in supporting POCF when Lowney, author of A Vanished World: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Medieval Spain (Free Press, 2005), guest-lectured in their course. Lowney, who serves as a consultant for the Catholic Medical Mission Board, said he started POCF to help under-funded grassroots charities doing great work but that remain off the radar of large funding organizations.
“Many smaller charities in the developing world have no platform to access money,” Lowney said. “The idea behind POCF is to deliver [all of the]money abroad, as opposed to paying overhead here in the U.S.”
Contributions to the students can be made on line at the POCF site.