The thought of walking 1,000 kilometres may be intimidating to most, but not to James Lee Valentine. He stands as a testament to how a charitable spirit, determination, and prior experience can significantly impact the lives of others.
Mr. Valentine, who is 59, is well acquainted with long-distance walks for charitable causes. His latest endeavour, also his most extended yet, was a marathon trip from Pattaya to Phuket, two resort cities that hold special meaning for him.
Inspired to raise 1 million baht for Take Care Kids, a children’s foundation in Pattaya, this British expatriate pushed his physical endurance to the limit.
The trek began in Pattaya on the eastern seaboard and ended in Phuket, an island province situated in the Andaman Sea to the west, spanning 1,050 km. The challenging walk, which lasted 48 days, came to a successful end on June 6.
This expedition was followed by a shorter charity walk earlier in the year, from Pattaya to Jomtien Beach, covering a more modest distance of approximately 33km. This event occurred on Feb 14, to commemorate Valentine’s Day, in line with his last name.
Rather than enjoying a romantic candlelit dinner on Valentine’s Day, he decided to contribute to the wellbeing of underprivileged children cared for by the foundation.
A visit to the foundation before the charity walks revealed the dire circumstances faced by children from abusive households. Many had undergone mistreatment before being relocated to a safe place.
Being a father of two himself, Mr. Valentine left the foundation feeling deeply moved but resolute in his decision to aid these children.
Mr. Valentine’s Pattaya-Jomtien walk raised 71,000 baht, which he donated to Take Care Kids.
Joining him on these walks were members of the Hash House Harriers, a community of sociable runners with branches across Thailand, primarily in Bangkok, Pattaya, and Phuket. The Hash House Harriers identify themselves as a charitable group.
Mr. Valentine discovered Take Care Kids in January at a fundraising event in Pattaya and this sparked his interest in supporting their cause.
Following the Pattaya-Jomtien charity walk, Mr. Valentine realized that more funds would be necessary to build a new foster home for the foundation.
After the 33km walk, he expressed, “I felt really good. And I visited their [the foundation’s] existing foster home, met the children there, and thought I should go do a big walk.”
With that objective, he embarked on his journey from Pattaya to Phuket, managing to collect 200,000 baht in donations.
Now back in Pattaya, where he presently resides, Mr. Valentine chose to walk to Phuket because of his personal affinity for locations beginning with the letter “P”.
Prior to moving to Pattaya, he lived for 24 years in the Philippines and 10 years in Phuket, where the largest chapter of the Hash House Harriers is based.
“I was thinking if I really enjoyed the walk, I might walk to Penang [Malaysia] only because it begins with a P,” he remarked.
During his walk, he stated, “I probably had five motorbikes in 40 days of walking that came too close to me because I could feel them pretty much brush my cape.”
On May 1, the twelfth day of his journey, he reached Hua Hin district in Prachap Khiri Khan. He reported on the Take Care Kids Facebook page that he was diagnosed with sciatica, a prevalent condition that affects the sciatic nerve, extending from the lower back down each leg.
He decided to heed his body’s signals and take two days of rest. But he told himself that the pain would not deter him or abort his mission for Take Care Kids.
Remarkably, the sciatica pain subsided as he persevered after the rest, and it has not troubled him since.
Mr. Valentine noted that unlike in Bangkok, convenience stores and pharmacies in the provinces are scarce. Sometimes, he had to walk 50km from one to the next and despite being offered rides, he always politely declined.
Mr. Valentine is not new to long-distance walks. His first charity walk was in the United Kingdom with his older brother in 1996.