UAE-based philanthropist aims to raise US$ 1 million for charity

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Maria Conceicao - Image credit Imran AhmedDubai-based humanitarian Maria Conceicao was recently awarded a double Guinness World Record for her conquest of this year’s 777 Ultramarathon Challenge, a seven full-distance 50km ultramarathon that was run on each of the seven continents within seven weeks. Maria was granted Fastest Aggregate and Fastest Woman records for her achievement. Now, she’s all pumped-up to run another edition of the endurance race, but this time a lot tougher – it takes a somehow similar premise – 7 marathons of 42km each in over 7 continents – this time to be run in 7 straight days!

Maria will embark on the challenge in February 2015 to promote awareness and raise US$ 1 million for her charity, the Maria Cristina Foundation (MCF). The foundation, which has been fighting poverty since 2005, primarily works on providing children in the slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh with a good education that would lay the foundation for a rewarding career path, and promote the economic sustainability of their families thereby lifting them out of the poverty trap.

Maria Conceicao - Image 2 credit Imran Ahmed“We are continuing our fight against extreme poverty and will run the toughest race yet to educate the underprivileged children of Dhaka. The children are our tomorrow and we would like to do our best to make sure that they get all the help they need to secure a better future. We are extremely happy that, with the generous support of our donors, we have helped hundreds of destitute families and children. There are still a lot more out there who have great potential and are worthy of being given the chance to go to school. The consequences of depriving these kids of an enriching education are long-term – not only does it prevent their overall growth but more alarming is that it forebodes another generation of poverty, not to mention more families putting their children to work or being forced into early marriages!” Maria said.

The gruelling series of the 777 Challenge will have Australia as its first leg, followed by Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, South America, and finally, Antarctica for the last stop. From training leading up to the endurance races, the group provides a variety of sponsorship packages that guarantee maximum impact to both the donors and the beneficiaries.

Maria, appealing for more businesses to get involved in the foundation’s cause, explained, “We have a radical approach to address the problem of poverty-stricken children. Our goal is to create sustainable change through education. That is why we can guarantee our donors that every cent they donate has a long-term impact. We do not have overheads, so every penny received goes to the intended beneficiaries.”

Aside from corporate donors, Maria is also calling on more volunteers to join them in taking on the endurance challenge. The marathon is attracting worldwide registrants, with runners from 13 different countries covering five continents confirmed to see action. There is equal ratio by male and female participants and available slots are running out fast. Interestingly, the oldest competitor in the list is 77 years old.

“We’re raising awareness on our cause on a global scale as we are determined to address the challenges of poverty and improve the lives of children through education. We are seeking volunteers to join our team for the challenge either for the individual races or the whole 7 continents. We would need them to raise the funds themselves to cover the expenses and also help us raise a minimum of US$ 1,000 per race, which is the lowest amount needed to fully educate one child for one year,” Maria said.

Maria Conceicao Image 3The foundation, apart from sending slum children to school, also leads other social initiatives in Dhaka including adult education and key family welfare packages, such as food assistance, medical and dental care, and housing/rent assistance. The first Portuguese woman and third national to summit Mount Everest, Maria pushes her own physical limits through various endurance challenges to raise funds for the group’s works.

Among MCF’s current sponsors are corporate organisations, such as Etihad Airways, Right Bite, NAMA, GEMS Education, Centre for Musical Arts, Full Potential UK, Raahi Group and Option 1 Event Services, UAE, as well as private individuals Dr. Jocelyn Charest, Nabil Dalle, Joe George and Safiya Burnell. For sponsorship packages and other information about how to get involved, visit www.facebook.com/MariaCristinaFoundation or www.mariacristinafoundation.org. For online donations to the foundation, click on www.justgiving.com/yimby/lifechangingjourney#/.

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