The “first steps” of people with Parkinson’s disease on the Camino de Santiago.

The Les Premiers Pass Association offers special itineraries to allow people with Parkinson’s disease to travel the Camino de Santiago.

It is one of the most famous spiritual journeys in the world. follow a path santiago de compostela, it means mingling with an ancient and universal tradition. The proof is this: in 2023, about 440,000 people were registered at the Pilgrim Reception Center of Santiago de Compostela. spain, A figure that has been increasing for several years. If these routes are easy to access for people with full physical capacity, they are less so for people with disabilities.

A problem well recognized by the French Association first steps, The latter, who is accustomed to accompanying (able-bodied) pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, has set up a program dedicated to people affected by Parkinson’s disease. After a successful first edition, the small structure is organizing a new launch on 18 May. For about a week, ten participants will walk a 60-kilometre path between Puy-en-Velay and Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnol, accompanied by six observers (doctors, physiotherapists, nurses and members of the association).

Between 9 to 17 kilometers per day

To launch such a journey, Les Premiers Pas joined forces with the Belgian structure association Parkinson’s, which helps patients. their aim: “Open these paths to all, move forward according to your means and possibilities”, assured Juliette Carpentier, founder and supervisor of Premieres Pass, during the first edition in 2023. As a reminder, the number of people affected by Parkinson’s disease in France is estimated at 272,500. This degenerative disease can cause tremors, difficulty speaking, imbalance as well as cognitive disorders.

On May 18, the next departure will be from Le Puy-en-Velay in Haute-Loire. Participants will walk part of the “Via Podiensis”, one of the most famous routes of the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage. They will walk between 9 and 17 kilometers per day and will stay in pre-selected suitable accommodation before the journey. “I managed to find accommodation on one level because the participants cannot climb stairs,” Juliette Carpentier specifies.

Participants in the first edition of the course, with Juliette Carpentier (in red).
“First Step” Association

Like the previous edition, a discussion group will also be organized during the walk. ,The disease is extremely isolating, so talking is important. “Participants were so happy to meet each other, talk about their disease and no longer be alone with this weight.”The founders of Les Premiers Passes continue.

Make paths accessible to all

These customized courses cannot be booked individually. You must necessarily go through a structure, such as a sick aid association, which will contact Les Premiers Passes. Currently, the association is limited to supporting people suffering from Parkinson’s disease. A reality that Juliette Carpentier would like to expand. ,We want to develop and welcome other pilgrims with different diseases or psychological difficulties. But that’s not all, our goal is to bring together people with similar problems and travel the Camino de Santiago together.“, she insists.

In the coming years, the founder would like to take her vision even further, and support a group made up solely of female survivors of sexual violence. ,We recharge our batteries while walking and we find togetherness and a certain kindness. In my opinion this is the path to reconstruction», says Juliette Carpentier. In this case, there is no need to go through the association, future participants will be able to contact them directly. There are many avenues opening the way for a new form of pilgrimage.

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