Walking The Way Of St. Francis
for The Animal Collective

Interview with Liz McDonough

Tell me about the adventure (hike) you are about to embark on?
It is an 8 day 135km hike (maybe a bit more) on a section of The Way Of St. Francis which runs from Florence to Rome. On April Fool’s Day I will start walking in Assisi & finish in Rieti.

Wow... how do you prepare for this?
Physically – by getting some miles in… hiking a mixture terrains & elevations alongside Zumba & Superjump classes. Mentally - Slowing down!!! I used to feel I ‘had to’ hike fast, but my body was burning out giving me muscle fatigue. Slowing down my pace & hiking with Caroline has built up my confidence.

Why now?
Early spring isn’t so hot & I overheat easily. I am regularly called ‘vampire’ by my hiking buddy, nothing to do with my Goth past, more for my shade hopping! Also what better way to spend mine & the hubby’s birthday after the hike – than in Rome!

What was it about the Way of St Francis that most attracted to you?
I know what initially scared me! The elevation & the difficulty level warning ‘For experienced hikers only.’ But after a week of looking elsewhere I found myself right back to this section & back to everything that scared me. BUT the remoteness, monasteries & castles, the Sacred Forest, the ghost-village of Sensati & a wood hanging on the mountainside all caught my breath again. It spoke to me! I felt I had to go for it!

I love this quote. It really sums up my journey...
Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible and suddenly you are doing the 
– St. Francis of Assisi

St Francis is the patron saint of Animals and the Environment is this something you are passionate about?
Becoming more vegan than vegetarian over the last couple of years has definitely increased my compassion towards all sentient beings & my consciousness towards the environment. Being around like minded people who have so much goodness & ‘DO’ so much made me want to actually do something too. By raising money I can make a difference.

You are raising funds for The Animal Collective –which is a new animal and environmental charity on the Campo de Gibraltar what exactly do they do?
The main objectives of TAC are to educate & raise awareness about animals & the environment. Reduce & with time eradicate the “Abandonment & animal abuse in the Campo de Gibraltar”. There are so many individual volunteers & shelters. Connecting everyone through The Animal Collective makes a stronger more communicative unit of volunteers for helping those that need it.They organise events & activities to raise money for much needed products for the shelters & other associations that work towards the protection & defence of the flora & fauna in the Campo de Gibraltar.The association is a tool to plan & organise financial & personnel support for animal shelters & environmental associations. Including working together with people who have additional needs, aiming to create a symbiotic partnership in which every party benefits.

How is your fundraising going ...I understand you have held a number of events to raise money?
I thought I was up against it as I work for myself, I don't have access to a big company with colleagues, I don’t have a massive family & I wasn’t born in Gibraltar…. I started my Go Fund Me page with the goal of £250, unsure I would hit my target. Up to today I have raised £1336 in two months! Over 86 donors!!! This has been hugely helped by two amazing ladies – Theresa who held a SuperJump class & Bianca who held a Zumba class for me! I have been humbled by all these donors, those showing up to these classes, those who constantly share my Facebook posts & donors don’t even know me. It has really touched me. I want them to know just how much their donations will help.

What would you personally like to get out of your 8 days o
f walking?
A stronger mindbody connection & the connectedness within the nature I will be hiking through. I hope to bring this energy back as inspirations for new art & use to strengthen my holistic healing. Knowing I am raising money for animals who really need the help will make it a far richer experience.

You had planned to originally do this alone but now you have someone joining you. How do you think this will change your experience?
I am SO used to going it alone... Vision quests, meditation retreats, music festivals… but finding a hiking buddy has really added to the experience already! Going sola never stops me from doing anything. I love my own company & rarely get bored. If anything I find the worry of whether I am boring someone or having to entertain another more draining. But Caroline my super hiking buddy & I are a perfect match of similar silliness, I find I can be myself with her. Sharing this experience together has helped my confidence & will make it far more enjoyable and fun! Also… I am less likely to get lost!

Tell me about where your donation will go and how can people make a donation?
There are hundreds of animals in shelters who have come from badly treated homes & saved from kill shelters. Many of these need vaccinating or veterinary treatment. Most of these shelters rely solely on the goodness of volunteers & donations from the public. There are shelters in desperate need of repair which costs money. There are transport costs to unite an animal with its new family & imagine the cleaning costs that running a shelter involves. Numerous animals are being dumped so the importance of education is very high. Hopefully the money I raise can go towards solving some of these problems.

If you have the capacity to donate even £5 please do so here...