Matt Harrison at his start point in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on Thursday. / SUR

Setting out to be the man who walked 500 miles for charity

Matt Harrison began his journey on the Camino de Santiago this week, as he aims to raise as much as he can for Cudeca

SHAY CONAGHAN

Marbella-based teacher Matt Harrison has just embarked on a 30-day charity walk on the Camino de Santiago. Even before his first day on the world-renowned pilgrimage route, Harrison had already passed his 1,000-euro goal, with the funds raised to be donated to Cudeca.

The particular route to Santiago de Compostela chosen by the Welshman began in the French town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and it will see his journey surpass 800 kilometres (500 miles) mark.

Even though most walkers on the pilgrimage do it for religious or spiritual reasons, Harrison found an alternative cause to complete the challenge, opting to raise funds for Cudeca, the charity specialised in giving palliative care to patients living in Malaga province.

Close to his heart

Harrison, a teacher at Swans International School in Marbella, had several reasons for doing the gruelling walk. “Mainly I wanted to do it for the adventure and for the personal challenge,” he told SUR in English.

“It felt like a good opportunity to do something for charity. I figured the Marbella community had been really good to me since I lived here, so I wanted to do it for something local,” he added.

It’s no coincidence that Harrison put Cudeca down as his charity of choice. His mother Catherine, who passed away five years ago, received palliative care, so the Welshman knows how important this type of aid can be, and it’s a cause that’s “close to my heart”.

“Our school does a lot of work with Rifcom and Cudeca, but I chose to do it for Cudeca because of the personal link with my mother,” he said.

Harrison’s Camino for Cudeca walk will see his mother play a key role. “In a way, she will always be a key motivation. She always seemed to be bemused by my silly football adventures, but sort of let me get on with it,” he said. “I imagine she would have felt the same about this. If I really want to do something I can become pretty stubborn,” Harrison admitted.

The Welshman’s other main motivation is to “not look like an idiot” by failing to walk it, having broadcast that he would complete the walk on his social media channels.

Malaga CF fan

Matt Harrison has just finished his third year as an English teacher at Swans, in Marbella. Born in the South Wales valleys, he has been teaching for close to a decade and settled in Spain in 2019. He is also a keen football fan, and he soon adopted Malaga as his Spanish team. His love for the club even led him to become a host for the Guiricast, a fan podcast focused on the club.

With lockdown coming into effect in March 2020, Harrison discovered the Camino de Santiago while reading about Spanish football, history and culture.

“It kept getting a mention, which led me to do more research and eventually fall in love with the idea of doing it. It also helped that there was no football tournament to distract me,” he joked.

To read more about Matt's mission and to donate to his cause, visit his GoFundMe page.