When the going gets tough
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.”