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They're taking a hike to raise funds to help Haiti battle coronavirus pandemic

The nonprofit Hope for Haiti has launched a

The nonprofit Hope for Haiti has launched a monthlong Hike for Haiti Challenge. Hikers from all over are virtually "hiking" the same distance that children in Haiti go to access education. The campaign supports schools, public health and disease prevention. Credit: A Plus Facebook Page

Linda Thelemaque’s original plan for mid-April was to travel to the rural town of Marre à Coiffe, Haiti, where she would climb a steep mountain that dozens of children hike every weekday to get to school.

Thelemaque’s travel plans were scrapped after the coronavirus pandemic hit New York and orders were put in place to stay home and practice social distancing.

But still, she’ll be doing the equivalent of that hike — a 10.5 mile walk or 200 flights of stairs — as she takes part in the Hike for Haiti Challenge.

The challenge, organized by the nonprofit Hope for Haiti, will be ongoing through May 17 and aims to raise awareness and funds for Haitian students, teachers and medical workers on the front line of the pandemic.

Thelemaque, the country director for Hope for Haiti, walked a 10.5-mile round-trip from her home in Floral Park to the Roosevelt Field mall last weekend. She plans to repeat that walk every weekend until the end of the challenge with the goal of raising $2,500. So far, she’s raised nearly $1,700.

She admits, though, her trip is far different from the kids' trek to reach their school where they can get clean water and health care.

“I’m walking a flat, paved road and if I need some water, there’s a CVS right there,” Thelemaque said. “They’re going up a mountain for all the basic necessities of life.”

This is the second year Hope for Haiti is holding the Hike for Haiti Challenge, which is intended to be done virtually, though employees of the nonprofit have the option of going to the mountain in person.

Celebrities have shown major support for the cause, including rapper Pusha T, who partnered with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and media strategist Karen Civil to raise more than $20,000 for the campaign.

So far, $50,000 in donations have been raised. The goal is to reach $100,000 by May 17.

Sarah Porter, of Astoria, Queens, also took part in the challenge recently. She walked 10.5 miles from her apartment across the Triboro Bridge through Randalls Island and Manhattan and back.

“We’re so inspired by these kids,” said Porter, who’s the organization’s director of business development and strategic partnership. “The walk represents how far these kids will physically go to make sure they’re getting an education.”

Porter said the support across the country for the hike challenge had been moving, considering many were facing their own struggles and losses.

“Even as we here in New York go through a global pandemic, it really hasn’t gotten in the way of people wanting to connect to something bigger than themselves and support a place as far away as Haiti,” Porter said.

Donations will help provide essential resources for health care workers, Porter said.

A 2019 study of critical care capacity in Haiti found that the country, with a population of 11 million, has only about 124 intensive care unit beds and 64 ventilators.

According to the most recent figures by the country’s Ministry of Health, Haiti has 76 confirmed coronavirus cases and six deaths. Though some experts say Haiti hasn’t reached its peak, Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe announced on April 14 the reopening of the textile industry, according to news reports.

Thelemaque described the difficulties Haitians face with social distancing.

“When you live in a home that has one or two rooms and you live with your extended family, the idea of social distancing is not necessarily the easiest thing to do,” Thelemaque said. Haitians have been wearing masks, but many continue to go to work and take public transportation, she said.

“The idea of social distancing or buying in bulk or working remotely — that is a luxury,” Thelemaque said. “They don’t have that luxury. They are literally living hand-to-mouth and they have to go out to make money to be able to feed their children.”

For more information about the cause, visit hopeforhaiti.com.

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