Smiling to Santiago

Smiling to Santiago

Smile Mission combine adventure with humanitarianism in sun-soaked Camino de Santiago charity event. July 22nd – August 6TH 2018: With only a 9kg backpack, old boots and a big smile, Smile Mission representative and volunteer Lee Neary participated in a 322km hike along the famous Camino de Frances. Stepping off the train in Léon (Spain), Lee (33) began a two-week long march through record breaking temperatures, across mountains, valleys and plains – following the sun west all the way to Santiago de Compostela.

By Lee Neary

“Each soul has their own Camino! You don’t always have to know where, or with who or even why. Some are searching for purpose, some creating it – some already know. Sometimes…it can be as simple as: left foot first, right foot will follow!”

First step of the Journey

“Establishing a non-profit charity organization is no simple feat. Beyond bureaucratic labyrinths, moral ambiguities and those twelfth-round feelings of ‘will this ever get off the ground?’ – fundraising can often feel like an uphill struggle with a plethora of obstacles and pitfalls. In this case, the term became all too real.” Lee mentioned when asked   

about what inspired his participation in the historicalpilgrimage across the north-west of Spain. As an avid lover of adventure, the Camino de Santiago provided the Smile Mission’s joint treasurer and secretary an opportunity to combine one of his life ambitions with raising funds for the organization’s humanitarian efforts.

“Friends and associates were very supportive,” Lee recounted, “many were thrilled to contribute donations and spread awareness of the idea. It was a real honor to be instrumental in such a culmination of good will and show of solidarity.” The self-funded journey raised 7,450sek in total.

“Helping others to learn how to help themselves!”

“Smile Mission is still developing its foundation. Reaching out and networking with likeminded individuals and organizations is so important at this preliminary stage!” Lee further explained about the charity’s intentions as a benefactor, “We’re a multi-faceted bunch, both in our team and our ideas. Limiting Smile Mission’s reach by setting parameters has never felt like an option. Simultaneously, we understand the importance of defining clear and precise goals to work towards.”

“There were certainly a few wearied moments of doubt. Moments of exhaustion, extreme physical discomfort and wondering if I had bitten off more than I could chew!”

Following success in the Smiling to Santiago event, Lee met with Mojatu Foundation Director and Chief Editor, Valentine Nkoyo, to propose donation options and future collaborations between the two organizations. In the meeting which took place at Ibis Hotel, Leeds, United Kingdom on 2018/12/29, Lee pledged a 5000sek (438 sterling) donation on behalf of Smile Mission towards Mojatu’s unstinting campaign in tackling female genital mutilation (FGM).

“The key project which I have been working on most the past couple of years is on the FGM issue,” Valentine explained, who was raised in the Maasai community of Entoi Entinok, Kenya, “It’s a massive issue! Quite often people think that FGM is not an issue outside of Africa, but there are women here who have been through FGM and are in need of our support…” Valentine detailed Mojatu’s activities and how the Smile Mission donation and assistance could be utilized.

“First and foremost, the one-to-one therapeutic treatment available for survivors of FGM atrocities has proven incredible – but in order to maintain that financial support is essential!” The Mojatu Director further explained how the foundation have been working with a farm in the Nottingham area which is proving a healthy environment and ‘safe space’ for FGM survivor rehabilitation.


“So far, we’ve planted over 4,000 fruit trees and the women can come with their children to feed and take care of the animals.”

Now What?

Reunited back at to the organization’s base in Stockholm, Sweden, the Smile Mission team are already back at the drawing board making plans for 2019. Guided by Chairman, Duncan Njuki, the upcoming charity are looking to reach and network with likeminded individuals and associations such as the Mojatu.

(Above: Certificate of completion on arrival at Santiago de Compostela)

“It’s not about what ‘we’ can do as a single entity,” Duncan explained, “but about helping others to learn how to help themselves. To think about sustainability, and not just short-term solutions. This requires so much more than just ‘I’ or ‘Us’, we need to join forces in as many ways as possible.” Smile Mission have their sights set on a variety of causes, from:

IT education in Ugandan communities, womens’ rights, sanitation and agriculture. When asked about future projects, Smile Mission Duncan mentioned a possible group fundraising expedition, along with Mojatu members, to take place in December 2019 involving Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. “We’re all very excited to see how the future will unfurl” Duncan commented on the prospect

Perigrino! Perigrino!

perigrino! By Lee Neary

“Between mountains

and Monday,

I meander through

a village of

disheveled houses

 and history.


 So much stone,

 sanctuary to swallows

 and finches

Nesting in its age,

 Its perfect



 As sun sets,

 Shining on shingle rooftop,

Families play

And poke

at cat and kittens

sprawled and

stalking in roadside gutter.



-Somebody whispers,

as children stare

with naked eyes.

Not one of them –

 holding a cell phone. .


pilgrim wandering

 in search of roadhouse

and refreshment.

 But it’s not the cats

or kittens,

the timeless uncertainty

of mountain veiled in mist –

or even casual judgement

that hold my attention.

 It’s the now,

the realization that

neither time

nor name

make my tether.



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