Oriol Bota


“No one walks alone on The Magic Line”

“In eight editions of Magic Line we’ve raised more than two million euros” “Our duty is to care for and help people who live in fragile situations”

The Magic Line is the annual fundraising walk of the Sant Joan de Déu welfare organisation, the Catalan wing of the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God. This year’s walk takes place on June 13 and as always aims to promote social commitment and the conviction that a better world is possible. The walk sees teams of people walking together to achieve a solidarity challenge they have previously set themselves. “In the Magic Line no one walks alone!” declare the organisers. The Magic Line is not about competing, it is about sharing, and all of the money raised goes to Sant Joan de Déu’s welfare projects. These projects focus on caring for the people who need it most and those in a vulnerable situation.

This initiative is now eight years old.
We are amazed at how much The Magic Line has grown. In the eight editions we’ve raised more than two million euros and have funded 200 of Sant Joan de Déu’s welfare projects. This shows that, step by step and with collective commitment and teamwork, we can make the world a more just and supportive place. The Magic Line is a route up K2 mountain. I’m no mountaineer, but we all know that to do such a climb you need to do it as a team, you know it will take a lot because it’s hard, but when you finally get there you realise that there are no obstacles that can stop you. I give you this example because I think we all have a Magic Line to achieve inside us. For some it’s a mountain, while for others it’s a solidarity walk.
This year’s motto is “More Than Ever”.
This has been a hard year for everyone. We’ve had to lock ourselves at home and adapt to teleworking, video calling, curfews. But what about all those people who did not have a house to quarantine in, or all the families with few resources who are living in a tiny home? And those who were hospitalised and could not receive any visits? Or all those who suffer from some kind of mental health problem? These are some of the groups we serve in Sant Joan de Déu, and all those people who were already vulnerable before Covid are now more so. For all of them we have to do “more than ever”.
It’s not a race, but participants are encouraged to do it in company.
We love these values. The Magic Line was born out of teamwork and with the idea that great challenges can only be overcome by cooperating with other people. Deep down this is a value for walking through life, too. The idea that together we can make it possible. Every year we have hundreds of teams made up of families, friends, co-workers or schoolmates who get involved, but it’s always together. And if you have no one to walk with, we’ll find you walking companions.
The format has changed this year.
We’ve adapted the format to the health situation, so instead of walking established routes with many other people, we propose walking wherever you want. This means you won’t only walk around Barcelona, but anywhere in the world. From Barcelona to Australia, Empordà to Terres de l’Ebre, or your garden. We have representation in many municipalities in Catalonia. In addition, Valencia and Mallorca will walk their Magic Lines on the same day, and other cities in Spain, such as Sevilla, have also joined. But there are some places in the world that will be there too. We have teams in Japan, Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Morocco...
You say that vulnerable people are now more vulnerable than ever.
A crisis like this is first seen with fear and uncertainty. But our duty is to care for and help people who live in fragile situations. And so we faced this crisis by focusing on the most vulnerable and trying to put care and solidarity at the centre. If this pandemic has highlighted anything, it’s the importance of solidarity, and we’re all responsible for that.
Volunteering has experienced the crisis in a very direct way. Has this weakened or strengthened it?
Volunteering is a pillar of our institution and the time that all these people selflessly give us is invaluable. Volunteers haven’t been able to do their usual activities in person, but from the start there have been new initiatives, such as sending letters, doing video calls, or making masks. Yet, despite having to stop face-to-face volunteer work in our centres, I’d say that the number of volunteers has gone up. The pandemic has shown us that volunteering is essential, and that has made it stronger. They say we’ll come out of this pandemic stronger, but also that the pandemic has shown us how fragile we are. I think we’ll have learned that we’re all vulnerable and that we all need help. The pandemic has put mental health on the table, for example, and with Covid everyone’s mental health has been affected. Perhaps the pandemic will have shown us we’re all fragile, but that doesn’t make us weak. In this sense of acknowledging our fragility, I believe that the pandemic has made us stronger.
What next? What are the priorities?
At Sant Joan de Déu our priority remains working alongside the people who need it most and raising awareness in society to increase everyone’s commitment towards building a fairer and more hospitable world. We’ll continue to be there for the most vulnerable because it’s our job and because caring for and supporting all these groups is our raison d’être. In a post-pandemic scenario, as we said at the beginning of the interview about The Magic Line, we will do it “More Than Ever”, because that’s the only way we can do it. We’re needed more than ever and that’s why we’re calling for everyone to go further than ever on the path of solidarity. That’s why we hope that everyone will join The Magic Line on June 13 and that we will make this edition the most supportive ever.

interview welfare

55 countries in the world

The Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God is a religious institution that was founded to care for the poor and sick over 500 years ago, and which today has 400 centres in 55 countries around the world. Founded by John of God, a Portuguese soldier turned health-care worker in Spain, the organisation’s priorities remain the same today: helping vulnerable people and those excluded from society. Although they are supported by thousands of individuals, companies and organisations, Oriol Bota says “you never get enough help when you want to do a lot more than you do. Having clowns bring joy to children with serious illnesses is as important as having the latest technology.” In addition, he points out that models of care are changing: “If before a hostel for 100 people in communal rooms was a good model for homeless people, today that’s no longer valid, and we need individual housing. In the short term it may be more expensive, but in the medium and long term, we achieve better results,” he concludes.

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