Saturday, February 26, 2011

Maria Conceicao Treks to North Pole to Raise Funds for New Charity Program


 Remarkable support for Maria Christina Foundation as Everyday People Take Stand in Fight Against Poverty


Dubai-UAE: 23 February, 2011 – Maria Conceicao, founder of the ‘Maria Christina Foundation’, will be heading to the North Pole on skis in April this year in an effort to raise funds for the MC Scholarship Program run by her foundation.

The program will place six gifted children aged 12 to 15 years from Bangladesh to schools in Dubai and support them for the duration of their secondary education. It will provide the necessary building tools for these children to turn the lives of their families around.

Maria strongly believes that education is the key to combating poverty. In 2005, the Portuguese humanitarian commenced her project on education which began with a one-room school for children in Bangladesh. In 2009, the project received great exposure with Emirates Airlines Foundation sponsoring it.  After the venture was completed, Maria began several other individual projects to eradicate poverty such as ‘The Catalyst’ - a project aimed to educate the parents of children about the importance of supporting their families. Today over 400 children are attending school on a regular basis and hundreds families have transformed their lives for the better.

And now, as the next step in the initiative, Maria has come up with the MC Scholarship Program. To raise money for this unique project she, along with a guide, will complete an unsupported trek to the North Pole.

In this, her latest endeavour, Maria’s inspiration is another kind individual, Paul Good, whom she met in January while he was training in a frozen part of North America for his own North Pole trip. Paul’s trip was inspired by a desire for adventure and a goal to prove that he could overcome the adversities caused by injuries sustained from paragliding. His journey to the North Pole comes from a lifelong ambition to follow in the footsteps of his childhood heroes - Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott - by reaching the North Pole on dog sleigh and skis from the edge of the Polar ice cap.

Paul Good said: “On meeting Maria I was impressed by her drive and passion to ski to the North Pole - something that’s totally out of her normal comfort zone - all to generate awareness for her foundation whose purpose is to educate and raise the hopes of those young children less fortunate than others. I hope that my support for Maria’s cause will go some way towards raising that awareness and highlight the immensely noble work she is doing for these children and their families.”

Maria’s two-week-long North Pole expedition begins in Borneo, a Russian ice station at 89 degrees latitude. Commencing on April 14, Maria will set off with a guide on cross-country skis, pulling a bulk of equipment weighing up to 40kg. The trek will be unassisted and unsupported, where they will have to carry all required supplies for the expedition with no motorised equipment to propel them. They will ski for an average of eight to ten hours a day, with a 10-minute break every two hours to snack, cook their own meals, set up camp, and generally live with little to no environmental footprint. During the expedition they will face risks of thin ice, open water, polar bears, frostbite, hypothermia and injury.

Though this will be Maria’s toughest test yet, adventures and challenges are no strangers to her – and all for the noble cause of her humanitarian efforts Maria has organized and led many such challenges over the years to raise money and awareness for humanitarian projects. She has run several international marathons around the world, namely New York 2001, Dublin 2002, London 2002 & 2003, Dubai 2004 & 2011 and Beirut 2005. In 2010, Maria climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and one day aims to complete the seven summits to raise funds for charity.

Many individuals across the globe are currently supporting the Maria Christina Foundation through various kind acts. And with its renown for fighting poverty, the foundation has inspired outstanding people from all walks of life to take up similar challenges as Maria has done to make a stand against poverty in developing countries.

Kristina Dow, an ex-Emirates Airline Cabin Crew member, now a singer, songwriter, actress and model, followed Maria’s efforts in her previous projects and took the first opportunity she could to travel and see how she could help. Kirstina sponsored two little sisters, Shomola and Komola, and now goes back frequently to see them. Before she leaves Dubai to continue her career in Los Angeles, she will be contributing to this admirable cause by performing her first ever skydive at Jumeirah Beach to raise funds for the Maria Christina Foundation.

Kristina Dow said: “I say to myself, if Maria can achieve this and make it happen in one of the hardest parts of the world, then anything is possible! Which it is, and her efforts have proven it. It gives me inspiration every day, and every time I think about Maria’s work I feel so privileged to be a part of it, to be able to help, and be a small part of these amazing children's lives - we have so much to learn from them.”

Maria Conceicao said: “It is humbling to have such remarkable individuals take up the challenge to fight for children’s education. I have the good fortune of knowing many incredible people who are not as fortunate as we are but still find it in their hearts to help our future generations.”

Sophie McAdam Clark, a daring teenager, visited Bangladesh at the mere age of 14 as a volunteer with a friend from school after Maria gave a speech at their drama club. In order to raise money, Sophie decided to cut her hair and donate the funds to two charities: the 'Make a Wish' Foundation and Maria Christina Foundation.

Sophie McAdam Clark said: “The experience changed our lives forever. I'm sure we've all had the urge to change the world for the better. However, at that age, it was heart wrenching when I realised I couldn't save every poor young or old person on the streets and in the slums. Living in Dubai it's easy to forget about the terrifying stories that we hear as we are in such a luxurious and fortunate community.

“From watching the news and witnessing third world countries that have lost thousands of lives to global disasters or financial difficulty and starvation, we must do all we can to contribute. Within my school - Dubai College - the charity committee does a lot and I see hundreds of children in Dubai who all want to make a difference, and obviously there are a lot of other people who want to make a difference and change the world for the better. We must remember that as the days we take for granted pass by, someone has just lost someone close to them, be it from disease or starvation. We can sit there, or we can make a stand and make a difference.”

Javier Dominguez, who has almost fully recovered from a motorcycle accident and surgery in his shoulder, will soon fulfill his dream of climbing the 6000 meter Island Peak in Nepal next month. A huge challenge and one that requires a lot of preparation, climbing the Island Peak, Javier says, is probably one of the hardest things he has ever done in his life. 

Javier Dominguez said: “Maria is resilient. She is all about helping children to make this world a better place. To be a part of something this commendable is truly an honour. I wish it enables others to believe in dreams becoming reality, such as all the dreams these children supported by the Maria Christina Foundation have: the dream of having a good education in Dubai, a chance to change their destiny and the future of their families, and ultimately transform their home country into a better place. Hopefully more people can help Maria in sponsoring their school fees, and growing all projects she is passionately driving under her foundation in Dubai.”

The dedication and passion for philanthropy displayed by Maria Conceicao earned her ‘Emirates Woman of the Year 2009’ and ‘Emirates Humanitarian of the Year 2009’. In addition, she was awarded ‘Most Exceptional and Innovative European Woman of the Year’ at the 2007 European Union Women Investors & Innovators Awards in Berlin.

The ‘Maria Cristina Foundation’ is on a quest to unlock and maximize human potential in developing countries. The foundation is involved in several current and planned projects, including MC Foundation Recruitment Institute, MC Foundation Community Project, MC Foundation School to School Projects and MC Foundation Community Health Program. To support the foundation you can visit www.mariachristinafoundation.org