It’s not very often that I’m lost for words.
But after a recent meeting, I was left speechless, humbled and tremendously inspired.
At VIVA, we believe in being all you can be. Not just in business or brand, but on a personal level. We’re lucky enough to work with many wonderful people who embody this principle, one of whom is Maria Conceicao.
As she served the skies as Emirates cabin crew in 2005, Maria found herself visiting Dhaka, Bangladesh. She explored the highly deprived area during her routine overnight stay and found that what she encountered would change her life entirely.
Witnessing the difficulty of life, the poor hospital conditions, and the general disorder of the region struck a chord with Maria. She cancelled her upcoming two-week holiday and instead spent the time in those very slums crafting a plan to make a difference. That plan became the Maria Cristina Foundation.
Maria was born in Portugal. When she was just two years old, her mother was taken ill and Maria Cristina Matos, an African immigrant cleaner, agreed to take care of Maria whilst her Mother struggled with her health. Devastatingly, Maria’s mother never recovered. And Maria Cristina Matos raised her, alongside 6 others, as one of her own.
Aged 39, Maria previously had no athletic inclination. But in the pursuit of awareness for the Maria Cristina Foundation, she is now the holder of 3 Guinness World Records and her story is nothing short of incredible.
In the 10 years since her initial visit to Dhaka, Maria has:
- Completed a successful trek to the North Pole
- Walked a marathon on each of the 7 emirates in 7 days
- Become the first Portuguese woman to summit Mount Everest
- Ran 7 ultra marathons on 7 continents in 6 weeks
- Ran 7 ultra marathons and 7 marathons on 7 continents in 11 days
All of the above were accomplished alongside the concerns of various fitness trainers. But Maria’s desire to raise desperately needed funding and create desperately needed awareness ran deeper than any physical pain could.
The Maria Cristina Foundation has so far helped over 600 children to access vital education. Many of whom are heading for top universities and careers, thanks purely to the help of the foundation.
In being all that she can be, Maria is helping others to go on and be all that they can be. It’s a trigger effect, and is something we are so proud to support.