Three weeks to go to Silves Rotary Club Pilgrimage
Philippe and Petra Vahle-Francis

Three weeks to go to Silves Rotary Club Pilgrimage

Another week closer to the Silves Rotary Club Pilgrimage and the final training programme is underway.

This week, a 7km walk around the junction of the Odelouca and Arade rivers is the gentle reintroduction after the heat of the summer. This is just one of a number of training walks over the last few months that walk leader Philippe Pfister has organised to get the Silves Rotary Club team fit for the challenge.

Why go through the challenge?

Silves Rotary pilgrims hope to inspire you to make a donation or sponsor a pilgrim so that they can resource a much-needed sensory room and garden for autistic and Down’s syndrome children in Agrupamento de Escolas Silves Sul. The children need a calm, safe haven to enable them to benefit fully from their time in school.

You can see from Philippe’s bio he is not new to the ‘Camino’, having walked from France to Santiago some years ago with his family. In June, along with his wife Carmen, Philippe walked the route Silves pilgrims are about to undertake in preparation for the main event in just over three weeks’ time. His meticulous preparation and encouragement are all part of the support in place for those in the group who are older and carrying more injuries or health issues. The Rotary Club will introduce all the pilgrims over the next few weeks.

Walk leader: Philippe Pfister, mid 60s

I’m a new Rotary member. I retired a couple of years ago from an international career, mainly in Operations leadership roles. My focus has always been around developing a meaningful purpose and rallying groups to achieve their goals through intensive teamwork.

I have never stopped practising physical activities: running 2-3 times a week until my mid-50s, and during the last 10 years walking on a daily basis. Some heart issues required the placement of a stent, and a heart ablation was needed to eliminate arrhythmia.

Why I became a pilgrim?

Our family (spouse and two children) always loved nature and hiking. We have completed the French Camino de Santiago in five stages, over five years’ vacations. This Portuguese Camino project addresses several personal objectives: a noble purpose to help disabled children, teamwork to support each participant to make it to Santiago, physical exercise and enjoyment of the beautiful nature and landscapes.

Team member: Petra Vahle-Francis, mid 60s

Having spent over 30 years performing classical music day and night, I was curious to learn something new. Curiosity drove me to the World Peace Academy at University of Basel, where I graduated with a diploma in Peace and Conflict Transformation, followed by a professional development diploma in conflict resolution from the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. Together with my husband, I founded the ‘Corridors of Peace’ Organisation in Switzerland, catering for refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and all those living on the margins in different societies, home and abroad.

Luckily no major health issues yet but had a serious fall causing dental replacement some five years ago. Definitely not as good as I used to be; with transition comes great challenges. In moving from Switzerland to the beautiful Algarve, I have not found a solid rhythm yet, but I will get there soon.

Why I became a pilgrim?

Since 2002, I have wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela but could not find the right time, group or persons to walk with. On a visit to Silves Rotary Club here in the Algarve, I was lucky to experience an inspiring lecture by Philippe Pfister, who has prepared all the logistics and background information for the Camino de Santiago de Compostela walk to raise funds for children with learning difficulties. I feel it is a golden opportunity to walk with people of similar sensibilities. I am grateful to join this noble rotary project.

About the pilgrimage

Starting on September 24, the pilgrims will walk some 120km over six days to provide children with learning difficulties attending primary school in Armação de Pêra a calm and ideal place to learn.

Silves Rotary Club pilgrims are asking for your help to raise €20,000, 100% of your donations will go to turn an old classroom and scrubby garden into a harmonious learning space with all the necessary resources. Any contribution no matter how small is welcome.

You can donate now at via our page “Help Pilgrims Change Kids Lives” or using the QR code below or via our web page

For more information, email [email protected] or call 912 584 999

Help us make a difference!