Grandmother walking 500 miles for life-saving surgery in Africa

Grandmother walking 500 miles for life-saving surgery in Africa

A grandmother of six from Gamlingay in South Cambridgeshire is walking 500 miles to help bring life-changing surgery to the world’s poorest nations.

Dawn Martin celebrated her 69th birthday just days after she started walking the full length of the Camino de Santiago from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port from France to Spain for Mercy Ships at the end of March.

The ancient pilgrim route, also called the Santiago de Compostela, will take her around six weeks to walk and ends at the cathedral of the same name in northern Spain, where the remains of St James the Apostle are said to be.

Mum of three, Dawn, has spent most of her working life in medical and caring settings with the NHS including being a physical therapy technical instructor at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield and then Age UK Hertfordshire discharge co-ordinator at the Lister Hospital in Stevenage. Before retiring she was head of health and wellbeing, covering all Hertfordshire hospitals.

She said: “I love walking but I have never done any fundraising on walks before but I realised there is such a great need and I wanted to help so I decided to do this to raise money for Mercy Ships.”

Dawn heard about the charity, which uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class healthcare services – including surgery and training – to strengthen and support countries in the developing world, from a speaker who came to her St Mary’s Guild, in Gamlingay.

She said: “It just struck me when I heard about Mercy Ships that I wanted to do something because what they do really makes a difference. I know, from going to Mozambique a few years ago, the terrible problems people have with accessing healthcare. We are so lucky here.”

Dawn has previous experience of the Camino, having walked portions of it before, but she has never walked it all in one go.

She has covered around 200 miles in two weeks.

Speaking from Navarrete, in France, at the 110-mile mark she said: “The weather has been very mixed but had two days of thick snow and ice it was actually quite dodgy walking as you couldn’t see where the rocks or ground were.

“I never imagined how hard this Camino would be very different from the Portuguese one so many steep climbs and descents, which have caused some injuries with two people having to go home.

“It is very quiet with very few pilgrims and most of the cafes and restaurants you pass on the way are closed so have to make sure I carry enough food and drink to last the day. The countryside and views are amazing and have met some lovely people on the way, but it is quite lonely at times.”

Dawn knows how hard the Camino can be from a previous bad experience that saw her get lost with both her daughters and end up dehydrated and spending the night in a shed, but this has not put her off.

She said: “I learnt a lot from that, but I also know there is no experience like it. I have amazing memories of meeting people from Argentina Germany, France; guitars playing, everyone singing, food and wine! Experiences you can never plan. I met people from all over the world with their stories and all different reasons for doing the Camino.”

Dawn believes doing yoga and looking after horses are helping her keep up her fitness but knowing how hard it is from prior experience, she is sending her backpack ahead to the next municipal Albergues or stop to make it a little easier.

Thank you, Dawn, for your incredible challenge for Mercy Ships! You are transforming lives!

Would you like to sponsor Dawn as she takes on her 500-mile walk? You can here!

We’ll give you an update on Dawn’s walking challenge soon, including her top tips for anyone considering a similar challenge!

Dawn on the Camino de Santiago