夏日蓝色的傍晚，我将踏上小径， 拨开尖尖麦芒，穿越青青草地， 梦想家，我从脚底感受到梦的清新。 我的头顶上，清风习习。 什么也不说，什么也不想， 无尽的爱却涌入我的灵魂， 我将远去，到很远的地方， …… (Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud，19世纪法国著名诗人）
七月盛夏，骄阳似火，在西班牙的一条千年古道上，风尘仆仆地走着一位法籍华人；他是我的高中同学陶嘉。这可不是条普通的古道，它是著名的圣雅各朝圣之路（Camino de Santiago或St. James’ Way）。古往今来，千千万万的朝圣者在上面留下了一串串虔诚和信念的脚印。这条朝圣路有多个起点，起始欧洲各国，途径法国，在法国境内汇集成四条主干道，然后横穿法国西班牙交界的比利牛斯山脉，殊途同归，终于西班牙西北角的圣地亚哥·德孔波斯特拉（Santiago de Compostela），一般要三个月左右走完。
From the Frontline of OCEF: A Pilgrimage for School Aid
Editor’s note: This is a road of pilgrimage; Tao Jia, a Chinese-French, made it a road of school aid with his resolute and faithful steps and loving heart. He took two trips on this journey. During the first trip, he walked 350 kilometers (about 220 miles) in 15 days, wrote over 20 entries in his journal, and raised over RMB￥80,000 (about USD$12,150) in donations, which OCEF has since distributed to 34 students in poverty in Guizhou, Gansu, Shanxi, Heilongjiang and Inner Mongolia. The second trip took him 72 days, during which he hiked 1,600 kilometers (nearly 1,000 miles) under the scorching sun or through storms, over mountains and valleys, including the 1,400-meter (about 4,600 feet) Pyrenees. He wrote almost 50 journal entries on this trip and raised nearly RMB￥350,000 (about USD$53,165), all of which will be distributed by OCEF to the children in need. As before, the funds will certainly warm up the kids’ heart and brighten up their future.
About the author: Fangqi, an OCEF volunteer in northern California, was instrumental in OCEF becoming the sponsoring charity for Tao Jia’s “pilgrimage.” During the journey, she served as a tireless promoter for the charity cause, joined the ranks of the donors herself, and worked closely with OCEF’s fund-raising and donor service teams to identify students who will receive assistance in order to satisfy Tao Jia’s and the donors’ wishes.
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On the blue summer evenings, I will go along the paths, And walk over the short grass, as I am pricked by the wheat: Daydreaming I will feel the coolness on my feet. I will let the wind bathe my bare head. I will not speak, I will have no thoughts: But infinite love will mount in my soul; And I will go far, far off, like a gypsy. … (Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud, 10th-century French poet)
Under the scorching sun in July this year, a Chinese-French, my high school classmate Tao Jia, was hiking on a 2,000-year-old road in Spain. This was no ordinary road; it was the famous Camino de Santiago, also known as St. James’ Way, a road of pilgrimage that bears the footprints of millions of faithful. The route originates from many different countries across Europe, merges into four main branches in France, and then crosses the Pyrenees to terminate at Santiago de Compostela in the northwest corner of Spain. The entire pilgrimage typically takes three months to complete.
Unlike an ordinary pilgrim, Tao Jia had a mission: to raise donations for Chinese school children in poverty. To him the road of pilgrimage is also the road of school aid. This trip is his second on Camino de Santiago. The first one took place in August 2016, when he started from Le Puy-en-Valey, a small town in France, with the initial goals of building a healthier body and mind and visiting scenic and historic sites. Five days into the trip, he suddenly realized a higher calling and started thinking about those school kids who had to hike to school. He fully appreciated what he heard from an 80-year-old Frenchman he met on the road: “It’s easier to appreciate what others are suffering from when you go through the pain yourself.”
He caught this flash of thought and started calling on his friends through WeChat to donate: he would hike for the students in poverty and the funds raised would be given to students in mountainous area through a reliable organization. When the words reached me, I invited him to consider partnering with OCEF and he told me immediately that was what he was thinking about too. He had known about OCEF for years as I had been volunteering for the foundation, had engaged in fund-raising, and Tao Jia had been an avid participant. He knew that OCEF consisted mainly of volunteers and its work was very transparent and trustworthy. It was a perfect match.
Every day Tao Jia hiked during the day and wrote great articles about his journey at night on his thoughts and experiences to share with his friends. They answered his call enthusiastically; his journal went viral, many people “friended” him on WeChat, and donations poured in. His first trip took 15 days and span 350 kilometer, during which he published over 20 journal entries and raised over RMB￥80,000 in donations. The funds have since been distributed to 34 students in Guizhou, Gansu, Shanxi, Heilongjiang and Inner Mongolia through OCEF. Four of the kids were orphans, eight came from single-parent family, three were handicapped, and all came from extreme poverty. They had suffered unbearably difficult situation from very young age. OCEF works year after year in hope that the financial aid would bring warmth and strength into their lives.
Last May, Tao Jia renewed his journey of pilgrimage and his fund-raising effort from Cahors, France. On the day he started, he posted an article entitled Remember Where We Came from in his WeChat space, which went viral immediately. He started three WeChat groups that gained more than a thousand followers from around the world. He shared the beautiful sceneries on the road and the stories of other pilgrims he met as he continued his hike. And he kept the followers updated on the status of the fund-raising efforts. He was alone on the road, but he is not lonely on his journey with thousands reading his stories and sending “red-packages.” I guess he was probably the first pilgrim on this historical road with a thousand people cheering him on. They did their best in making financial contributions, making videos and albums, and spreading the words about his journey.
Yuanming from Hong Kong flew to France and hiked with Tao Jia for a week, taking very good care of him. Our mutual friend Weiping was so moved by Tao Jia’s story that he went well beyond monetary contributions: he joined OCEF as a volunteer bookkeeper for donations from overseas sources. Mr. Chen Jiande from New York has made three donation to OCEF since last year; as someone who once lived a in mountainous region in Guizhou for years, he really wants to help the kids there and Tao Jia’s pilgrimage helped him realize his wish. There were many other donors, including fellow pilgrims on the road, while many hotel workers he met also made contributions in different ways. This journey has been a bond of love; not only did it benefit the kids in need in those faraway places, but it also helped many ordinary people find an outlet for their loving heart.
Tao Jia took thousands of pictures during his trip, covering both natural and cultural wonders in France and Spain. Every day he brought a visual feast to us, yet the most touching part to him was not the beautiful sceneries but the people he encountered during this trip and their stories, which were collected in his journals. He said the most memorable part of this journey was the great human nature that he experienced and he would continue to benefit from that for the rest of his life. I would say that all his followers felt the same way. It was a journey of salvation, one that lifted their souls to appreciate the power of kindness and the higher calling. Tao Jia said it well in his own words: “I started with nothing and returned with everything.”
Tao Jia finally reached his destination, Fisterra at the westernmost spot of Spain, on a drizzly day. Four days before that he concluded a successful Camino de Santiago journey in Santiago de Compostela. As his classmate and friend, as an OCEF volunteer, I am full of gratitude. For 15 days last year and 72 days this year, Tao Jia left his family behind and, carrying a 13-kilogram backpack, hiked across mountains and valleys under the scotching sun. It was an extreme challenge, both physically and mentally, and he made it. With cheering from his friends and followers, he finished 700 kilometers in France, climbed over the 1,400-meter Pyrenees, and then finished another 900 kilometers in Spain. He wrote almost 50 journal entries during this trip and raised RMB￥350,000. Combined with the RMB￥80,000 from last year, Tao Jia’s pilgrimage has brought to OCEF’s cause a total contribution of RMB￥430,000. It is an unbelievable achievement of kindness.
Congratulations to Tao Jia for accomplishing great mission, and many thanks to the companionship from all his supporters during the journey!
The journey has reached its end, but the love is endless.