When 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 decided that she had all she needed. But she had the strong desire to run a marathon, and 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 MWS Girls’ Residence instead of buying her birthday gifts.
MWS Girls’ Residence is a girls’ hostel run by Methodist Welfare Services, rehabilitating at-risk girls who are serving their probation or referred by other volunteer welfare organisations.
What the run is 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 MWS Girls’ Residence is doing, not on her.
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 MWS Girls’ Residence regularly to get to know the girls.”
The youth from Hakka Methodist Church’s Saltshaker Youth Ministry had been visiting MWS Girls’ Residence with her church friends, playing games, conducting lessons and organising events like Christmas parties and Parents’ Day.
“It was tough. I had to juggle classes, exams, training for the run, and visiting the girls,” she said. “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 MWS Girls’ Residence was organizing, from Changi Village to Marina Bay. This way, the girls can 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 for me, and the prospect of being ignored or rejected made me squirm,” Jacqueline said.
The three-month long project raised more than $2,000 for MWS Girls’ Residence.
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 said. But if not for her running entourage, made up of her father Mr Chua, Pastor 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.