Maid takes charity road to help break cycle of poverty

Mum of three has taken part in marathons, cycling events to help less fortunate since 2011

Ms Jannah Pascua, who has completed seven marathons, logged 121km in this year's virtual OCBC Cycle event to help raise $30,000 for non-governmental organisation Aidha.
Ms Jannah Pascua, who has completed seven marathons, logged 121km in this year's virtual OCBC Cycle event to help raise $30,000 for non-governmental organisation Aidha.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Ms 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 her-self through school and help support her family.

Knowing that there are other people in similar situations is why helping the less fortunate is important to Ms Pascua, 46, who has been working as a foreign domestic worker 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.

Ms 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."

Ms Pascua, 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.

Ms Pascua has completed seven marathons, four half-marathons and four OCBC Cycle events, and is part of a dragonboat team.

She was never an active person until she signed up for 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 Ms 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 the race another shot.

Initially, even 100m runs were tough, but she increased the distance every night, before eventually completing her second marathon in about six hours.

She usually trains in the evenings after she has completed most of her chores.

She 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 event.

While the main aim of participating in these running and cycling activities is to raise funds, she also pushes herself to better her time or cover a longer distance.

With the OCBC Cycle converted to a virtual event this year, she 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.

This year, she is among more than 135 people who are part of Ride for Aidha 2020, which aims to raise $30,000 for its Gift of Education campaign.

Ms Pascua said: "I really want to push myself to my limits and... 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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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 15, 2020, with the headline 'Maid takes charity road to help break cycle of poverty'. Subscribe