Maria Conceicao, founder of Maria Cristina Foundation, wearing Zena Presley
Maria runs a foundation that provides education scholarships for children from slum communities in Bangladesh. It currently has over 100 children on school scholarships both in Bangladesh and in Dubai, as well as five who have progressed to university thanks to the help they received. The foundation also educates parents of these families and helps them find gainful employment. Maria, from Portugal, loves to be outdoors, so we took her to the new Dubai Water Canal for a stroll. How do you think being in the UAE has helped you build the foundation? If it wasn’t for the UAE I would never have started the foundation. I was working for Emirates Airlines as cabin crew and decided to help poor families after a trip to Bangladesh. I got a lot of support from individuals and businesses, including Emirates, and the foundation grew and grew. What do you love most about the UAE? I think that the huge achievements of the country and how much it has developed encourages people to aim high and believe in themselves. The children are also inspired by Dubai, they even want to change their own country to make it more like the UAE. What does the future hold for you? We are currently looking for 21 Emiratis to be on our board of directors so we can eventually register the foundation as a charity in the UAE.