Saturday, April 13, 2024

Conquering 500 miles for needy


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Betty Hope-Gittens set herself the challenge of walking 500 miles in 36 days to raise funds, as her birthday gift to the St Philip District Hospital and the Canadian she supports.

The Barbadian-born Canadian citizen was well aware this was not going to be her normal leisurely, keep-fit exercise walk. Determined to undertake the challenging adventure to celebrate her 80-year milestone, she left Ottawa in early April for the gruelling pilgrimage on which she set out from the French town of St-Jean-de-Pied-de-Port on Easter Sunday, to walk Spain’s famous Camino de Santiago, known as The Way of St James. It is an ancient path of pilgrimage running parallel to the northern coast of Spain, ending in the city of Santiago de Compostela.

Thousands attempt the trip and many only go part of the way, but Hope-Gittens went every step and completed the walk in fine form.

“For me it was the most challenging thing I have done in my 80 years. It was most exciting for me and I just give God thanks that I was able to do it,” she told Easy magazine when she was in Barbados recently to set up the CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank account for her charity “Betty’s Walk for St Philip District Hospital Inc.”, to which donations are being accepted for the worthy cause.

Exhilarated about what she was able to achieve, the octogenarian was effusive in her thanks to God for His divine assistance that enabled her to succeed.


Betty Hope-Gittens celebrating her arrival at the Cathedral in Santiago, Spain. (GP)

“It was a wonderful experience knowing that with just some effort, I can help people who are less fortunate,” said the Barbadian who migrated to Canada many years ago, but has made it her mission to assist in improving the lives and living conditions of those Barbadians who call the St Philip institution home.

A woman of faith, Hope-Gittens left her cell phone behind in Ottawa, replacing it with the Bible which she carried every step of the way.

“I start every day by reading the Bible. From that I get strength, courage and confidence and I continued to start my day that way on the entire trip,” she recalled. 

At least 2000 pilgrims trek along the route of the Camino de Santiago daily, but Hope-Gittens said most days she walked virtually alone, while countless others sped past. For her it was a journey, not a race, and so she made no attempt to try to keep pace with the many overtaking. Her constant company was her faith in God, she said. (GC)

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