When the go­ing gets tough

Friday - - Society -

she went on to take up snow­board­ing when she was 23 and did white-wa­ter raft­ing, too.

In 2011, she made her bravest de­ci­sion yet – she came off her Dh80,000-a-year med­i­cal treat­ment in or­der to have her first child. To­day, Ka­t­rina acts as the di­rec­tor of pa­tient sup­port for the Emi­rates Arthri­tis Foun­da­tion (EAF). Just as tough is Maria Con­ce­icao, who was brought up from the age of two by a pen­ni­less fos­ter par­ent be­cause her bi­o­log­i­cal mother was too sick to care for her. Cristina Matos was a wid­owed refugee from An­gola with six chil­dren, who gave Maria not just a sta­ble up­bring­ing, but a sense of com­pas­sion and self-be­lief.

In 2003 Maria be­came a flight at­ten­dant in the UAE and dur­ing a stopover in Bangladesh, she was moved by the plight of the poor in the Dhaka slums. Re­minded, per­haps, of how a help­ing hand from a stranger had given her such a vi­tal leg-up in life, she de­cided to act.

In 2005 Maria raised enough funds for a one-room school, and has gone on to build a nurs­ery, pre-school, pri­mary and sec­ondary schools, pub­lic lava­to­ries, wa­ter wells and more.

“I’ve climbed moun­tains phys­i­cally and fig­u­ra­tively ev­ery step of the way,” she says. “Ob­sta­cles are plenty, and there are many mo­ments of de­spair. At each hur­dle, I think back on the peo­ple in the slums, the chil­dren wait­ing to go to school, the par­ents hop­ing for a chance to give their kids a bet­ter life – peo­ple at the bot­tom of a lad­der reach­ing out.

“There are girls be­ing forced into mar­riages, boys be­ing sent to work in haz­ardous con­di­tions, ba­bies go­ing to bed hun­gry, yet they will not hes­i­tate to give you a smile.

“Amidst this des­ti­tute poverty, th­ese chil­dren still have big dreams for a bet­ter tomorrow. It is their undy­ing hope that fu­els me to go on and chal­lenge my­self in new ways to give them a fair chance at a bet­ter life.”

That’s why she has also climbed both Ever­est and Kil­i­man­jaro and has done the 777 Chal­lenge (seven marathons in seven days across the Emi­rates) de­spite hav­ing an in­jured knee.

A pro-ac­tive mind­set can be of ben­e­fit to any­one, be they an ad­ven­turer, a char­ity worker or some­one fight­ing to over­come a more per­sonal chal­lenge.

Right here in Dubai, one man be­lieves that if he can act as a cat­a­lyst for the city’s un­tapped en­tre­pre­neur­ial tal­ent, it could reap huge div­i­dends, not just for the in­di­vid­u­als push­ing them­selves and see­ing their ideas come to life, but for the UAE as a whole.

“I see Dubai as the next Sil­i­con Val­ley,” says Si­mon Hud­son, who re­cently set up a lo­cal chap­ter of Startup Grind, a kind of global in­ter­net café for would-be en­trepreneurs.

“The tim­ing is right and it feels like any­thing is pos­si­ble. If you fol­low your pas­sion and do some­thing that you be­lieve in, suc­cess fol­lows you – and here in Dubai, peo­ple are will­ing to lis­ten to you be­cause they haven’t heard it be­fore. It’s still fresh.”

With an em­pha­sis on push­ing through in­stead of quit­ting at the first hur­dle, what Si­mon is aim­ing for has a lot in com­mon with the ex­ploits of Dave and Ri­p­ley.

Whether the goal is a suc­cess­ful busi­ness ven­ture or an un­sup­ported walk across the Sa­hara, by stretch­ing your­self you could feel more alive than ever be­fore.

“Phys­i­cal tests not only re­lease some good old en­dor­phins and in­crease fit­ness, but they cre­ate a new re­silience as we re­alise ex­actly what we’re ca­pa­ble of,” says Dave.

“If we push our­selves hard, get out of our com­fort zone and cre­ate an iden­tity and ca­reer shaped around our pas­sions, then work doesn’t feel like work at all.”

And it’s worth it, be­cause any­thing could be out there and any­thing is pos­si­ble.

“It’s dif­fer­ent for ev­ery­one,” he says. “I’ve usu­ally got six or seven things on the go and ev­ery day is ex­cit­ing. The power of the word ‘yes’ is just in­cred­i­ble, and th­ese days I say yes to pretty much any­thing.”

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