While others may throw an extravagant party or come up with an extended wish list for gifts for their 21st birthdays, Jacqueline Chua was pounding the pavement in the middle of the night on hers.
The recent graduate did not want any presents for her birthday in 2015 as she had decided that she had all she needed. However, she had the strong desire to run a marathon, and to be able to discipline her mind to complete the challenge.
Marrying the two desires, she decided to run for a good cause, asking people to donate to Residence @ St. George’s (RSG) instead of buying her birthday gifts.
RSG is a girls’ hostel run by Methodist Welfare Services (MWS), rehabilitating at-rish girls who are serving their probation or were referred by other volunteer welfare organisations.
What the run was not
Jacqueline was sure of what she did not want the run to be.
It would not be about her, her birthday or the money. She wanted the focus to be on letting more people know of the work RSG is doing.
And it would not be about the run either.
“I don’t want to just turn up on the day, run and go home”, she said. “I challenged myself to visit RSG regularly to get to know the girls”.
The youth from Hakka Methodist Church’s Saltshaker Youth Ministry had been visiting RSG with her church friends, playing games, conducting lessons and organising events such as Christmas parties and Parents’ Day.
“It was tough. I had to juggle classes, exams, training for the run, and visiting the girls,” she explained. “But I had resolved that it would always be more about the people than the money.”
Through this, she came to know the girls better. “I was very touched by how sweet the girls are, despite their tough exterior and backgrounds.”
21 kilometres for 21 years
Jacqueline combined her 21-km run with an overnight cycling event RSG was organising, from Changi Village to Marina Bay. This way, the RSG girls could take part by cycling as well.
The toughest part of the project was asking for donations. “It was probably the most nerve-wrecking part,” she said.
“Soliciting for donations was thoroughly uncharacteristic of me, and the prospect of being ignored or rejected made me squirm,” she added.
The three-month long project raised month than $2,000 for RSG.
The run was also a challenge for the avid runner. “Running at a time when my body was supposed to be resting made it very difficult to focus on the road ahead, much less pace myself,” she noted. If not for her running entourage, made up of her father, the Rev Jasper Sim, and a friend, she might have given up mid-way.
But she finished her marathon, and celebrated her 21st birthday by raising funds for a cause she believed in.
“I gave what I had: two legs to run and a friendly face to build relationships,” she said.
VISIT www.mws.sg to find out more about MWS causes.
By the Methodist Weldare Services Communications Team