WORK, a non-profit whose mission “is to accompany families in Haiti out of poverty through good, dignified jobs.” WORK believes that every individual has potential and that “dignity is a human right.” They work to remove barriers and provide skills and opportunities for the people of Haiti to find meaningful work.
Each year WORK hosts an event to raise money for small communities in Haiti, where they stand side-by-side with individuals to teach them meaningful skills that directly relate to opportunities in their local areas. Run Across Haiti is a multi-day event where runners from around the globe gather to help raise money for work, involve themselves in the community, and see the results of their fundraising efforts in the lives they’ve been working for.
“It’s definitely shifted my perspective, being in Haiti. One of the reasons the race was put on was to show that it’s not a place to be feared or pitied. It’s beautiful and amazing. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever run”, says Ali Riecke, of Bellingham, WA.
Reicke has been a runner for 7 years, starting when she was 18. Like many of us, she started out as a road runner, but through experiences with others and because she comes from an area with incredible trails, migrating to trail running and eventually ultras became a natural step. In her first real year of ultra running she did her first 50k, 50 miler, and even won her first 100k at the Big Foot 100k. She went on to finish Javelina Jundred as her first 100 miler in 2017.
“Before [going to Haiti], I was trying to get to the next big distance. Last year I kind of did all that. Because I have the ability to run I can use it to go good for other people. I can raise money for people who aren’t as fortunate. My reason for running has definitely change.”
Riecke had never really traveled much outside of the US, so going to Haiti was a big culture shock.
“In the US people avoid making eye contact. But in Haiti everyone looks at you. They don’t have that awkwardness of eye contact. It was hard for me to learn to accept that. The second you said Hi to them they smiled and waved. Everyone was so happy. Their faces would light up,” she states.
Runners cover over 200 miles in 8 days, starting as early as 5am and running until early in the afternoon. Following each day’s run they eat and experience the communities they are running through. Children in the mountain regions would frequently run out from their homes yelling, “blanca”, or “white” as they may have never seen a white person before. One such child, a boy named Oliver, ran the last two miles with the group, then spent the afternoon with them eating and playing.
This year, 28 runners came all over the US, Canada, and there was even a local runner from Haiti. Ages ranged from 21 to over 50. Running backgrounds ranged from road runners to Ironman athletes to ultra marathon runners. But all were there for the same reason, to help in a way that they best knew how.
When asked about the process, Riecke said, “We would run from town to town every day. 8 days with one rest day. We started in Cap-Haitien, then ran 34 miles to the next town. Accommodations were never all that great. Often times we had pit toilets. Rarely had running water. We were up at 3am every day to get ready and have a meeting. We would then shout”Pou Ayiti!” (“For Haiti”) and start running.”
Ultimately, it came down to the experience. Ali Riecke is a changed person because of it. Her view on running and the world has changed and she will be forever grateful for it. She continues to set goals for herself in the world of running (she will run Squamish 50/50 and Pine to Palm 100 this year), but looks forward to going back to Haiti in 2019.
For those who are interested in learning more about Run For Haiti and WORK, you can link below for details.