Last Sunday, Jeanilyn Bermudez laced up her running shoes to take on the 42.195km of the 2014 Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore. And as she has done for the past few years, she dedicated her run to the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME).
With her winsome smile and wrinkle-free face, Bermudez’s youthful and energetic appearance belies her almost 50 years. Originally from the Nueva Vizcaya province in the Philippines, she arrived in Singapore in 1984 at the age of 19 to work as a Foreign Domestic Worker (FDW). Economic hardship forced her to shelve dreams of going to study at university. As the second eldest of six siblings living in poverty and a single mother to three children, her family has long looked to her to help provide for them.
“I never kept a penny for myself,” she says. “Everything I made I sent straight back home to the Philippines.”
Bermudez’s desire to give back to the community extends to her adopted home in Singapore. She has been volunteering to help other foreign workers since 1990 and has been working with HOME for almost six years. At HOME, she has listened and been moved by workers’ stories of physical and emotional abuse, salary withholdings and interminable working hours. Stories rife with suffering and alienation.
“My heart aches listening to such horrible treatment,” she explains. “But HOME is a blessing for them.”
So to increase awareness for the organization, Bermudez is dedicating this year’s marathon run to HOME. In 2012, her second marathon, Bermudez used her run to fundraise for HOME. She proudly handed over to the money raised in an official celebration ceremony upon completion of the race. That year, she also managed to improve her time from just over seven hours the year before to an impressive five and a half.
To train for the marathon, Bermudez builds her endurance by running, biking and even just taking the dog for very long walks. She is a little nervous for the run this year as she concedes she hasn’t trained quite as much for this race as she has in previous years.
After she finished her race on Sunday, Bermudez headed to the Harbourfront to perform a musical in commemoration of HOME’s ten year anniversary.
Bermudez pledges to continue supporting those who need her help and hopes that her success will serve as inspiration.
“All my dreams are coming true and all my goals are being achieved. It can be done,” she says with a smile that lights up the room.