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Fundraiser becomes first Portuguese woman to reach Everest’s peak

by Carrie-Marie Bratley, in News · 30-05-2013 09:49:00 · 1 Comments

A former flight attendant who gave up her career to help the poverty-stricken children of Dhaka (Bangladesh) has become the first Portuguese women to reach the summit of Mount Everest – the highest mountain in the world – doing so to raise funds and awareness for her cause.

Fundraiser becomes first Portuguese woman to reach Everest’s peak

Speaking to The Portugal News from Kathmandu (Nepal) just days after returning from the famous mountain, Dubai-based Maria Conceição said that the climb had been “extremely challenging.”
“There were times when I asked myself where all the training had gone to. I had never been higher than 7,000 metres before I went to Everest and I struggled initially with altitude sickness”, she recalls.
Maria Conceição started her climb at the beginning of April 2013 and finished bang-on her mid-May target, becoming the first Portuguese woman to accomplish the feat in the process.
As she took in the enormity of her achievement, standing on Everest’s summit at 8,848 metres, Maria’s mind was awash with emotional thoughts of friends, family and the community whose lives she is dedicated to improving.
“I thought of my family, who has put up with my continued selfishness in wanting to help these slum-dwellers and always understood my passion for these kids and their families. I thought of my adoptive mother, Cristina, who instilled in me the character to choose this life and to maintain the perseverance it has taken to reach this point. And as the final summit approached with a death-defying cornice on one side, I thought of all the people who have supported and sponsored me over the last eight years in order to allow me to eradicate poverty in the slums of Dhaka. From the top of the world I said my thanks and marvelled at one of the most unique views on Earth. It was truly wonderful. But the biggest thing I felt was gratitude: I wouldn’t be there if I didn’t have wonderful people in my life to help and support me”, she shares.
Maria Conceição founded the Dubai-based Maria Cristina Foundation after witnessing the extreme poverty of Bangladesh for the first time in 2003, when she worked as a flight attendant for a UAE airline.
In July 2005, with the support of family, colleagues and friends, Maria launched a charity project to help the many families in Bangladesh, starting with a one-room school.  
“When I reached the summit of Everest, I was all of the people that have surrounded me and inspired me. I thought of my Dhaka kids; there was no way I would be the person that I am without them”, she adds. 
Since 2005 Maria has developed and ran numerous humanitarian projects in Bangladesh focusing on providing free education to children, thus breaking the cycle of poverty.
To financially buoy the foundation she frequently partakes in various gruelling fundraising challenges, including the London and Dublin Marathons, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, trekking to the North Pole in 2011, and completing the ‘777 Challenge’ - seven marathons in the seven Emirates in seven consecutive days.
Several hundred children and their families are currently supported by the Foundation, costing thousands of Euros every month.
Maria’s ascension to Everest followed the South Col Route that was taken by Sir Edmund Hillary, making use of four different camps to adjust to high altitude en-route.
Throughout the trek the dedicated humanitarian and her fellow climbers faced dangers such as shifting ice, deep crevasses, falling ice and avalanches, not to mention frostbite, intense sunlight, wind and lack of oxygen.
“I understand that I was lucky to come away from this trip alive and with all my extremities”, she reflects.
Unsure of how much has been raised through her admirable effort (“I’ve only just came back down Everest so I need go back to Dubai and my team of volunteers will update me”), Maria vows whatever was garnered will be put straight towards her goal of “educating and finding jobs for those who were born without opportunity.”
“I am committed to honouring my promise to the Bangladeshi kids that I will provide them with a better life, education and opportunities, no matter what. This is my biggest motivation to keep going. Reaching the summit of Everest will hopefully give Maria Cristina Foundation a global platform to receive worldwide financial support so I can help the kids cut the umbilical cord with poverty”, she concludes.
For more information on Maria Cristina Foundation or to make a donation, see: www.mariacristinafounda tion.org.

Comments

Please dont forget that only rich people can afford hiking on Everest. I was a mountaineer too before but poverty hit my family, i am not really thinking about Everest, (its summit is so littered sadly) and i prefer lower summits that i can do on my own, but the fact is that even Alps are expensive when youre broke. Let alone Everest. Is today a luxury iten for very very wealthy people...some of them are not even climbers...and the permit, training and expedition are all reserved for rich people. All this people you see here are rich.
by Pedro from Beiras on 19-03-2014 03:30:00

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Edition 1500
10 November 2018
Edition: 1500

Read this week's issue online exactly as it appears in print.

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