SINGAPORE – Jannah Pascua remembers what it was like to grow up in a poor household in Ilocos Sur, a province in the Philippines.
With little money and food, she began to work for her relatives at 12 so that she could put herself through school and help support her family.
Knowing that there are other people in similar situations is why giving back to the less fortunate is important to Pascua, who has been working as a foreign domestic helper in Singapore since 2005.
Since 2011, she has been raising funds for various organisations such as Aidha and the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) by participating in marathons and cycling events.
Pascua, who has three children between the ages of 18 and 21 and last saw them two years ago, said: “I want to give back to the community because I know the feeling of having nothing. I came from a poor family and I know what it’s like to have nothing to eat and no money.”
The 46-year-old, who was previously a student at Aidha, also volunteers with the non-governmental organisation that mainly teaches maids how to manage their money and start businesses twice a month.
She helps to manage the finances of her farm back home while her husband handles the daily operations.
Pascua has completed seven marathons, four half-marathons and four OCBC Cycle events and is also part of a dragonboat team, but admits that she was never an active person until she signed up for her first marathon, the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, in 2011, to raise funds for Aidha.
Without any proper training, she struggled to complete the race, finishing it just one minute under the cut-off time of eight hours.
“It was a really painful experience. I nearly couldn’t finish it because halfway through I felt that my body was aching. I couldn’t run properly so I had to walk, I was dragging myself to the finish line,” said Pascua.
“After the marathon, I said it was the first and last one I would take part in.”
But in 2015, she decided to give marathons another shot.
Initially, even 100-metre runs were tough, but she increased the distance every night, before eventually completing her second marathon in about six hours.
She then picked up cycling in 2017 because of the OCBC Cycle and rented a bike at East Coast Park to participate in the 42km category.
Since then, she has taken part in every edition of the OCBC Cycle.
While the main aim of participating in these events is to raise funds, Pascua also pushes herself to better her time or cover a longer distance.
With the OCBC Cycle converted to a virtual event this year, the Pascua saw it as an opportunity to complete her longest ride ever by cycling 121km on Nov 1, almost thrice the 42km she had done in the previous three editions of the event.
This year, she is among the more than 135 people who are part of Ride for Aidha 2020, which aims to raise $30,000 for its Gift of Education campaign.
Pascua said: “I really want to push myself to my limits and because when I help to raise funds, I also want to show that it’s something meaningful that is worth donating to.”
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