Dubai-UAE: 08 May, 2011 – Maria Conceicao, Founder of the Maria Cristina Foundation, successfully completed her journey to the North Pole on April 22, 2011, at 7:30pm UAE time, in an effort to raise funds and awareness for the MC Scholarship Program. The Program provides the necessary funds to support the secondary education costs for six underprivileged Bangladeshi children in Dubai.
The journey to the North Pole was exciting and filled with challenges, Maria said. Even though temperatures remained favourable throughout the expedition, she had to maneuver across varying terrain, consisting of big pans of ice, rubble, pressure ridges, thin ice and huge blocks of moving ice.
On the day Maria reached her destination, she encountered near zero visibility several times. However, favourable temperatures of -10 Degrees Celsius enabled her to cover 9.5 nautical miles in six hours.
The most tedious part of the journey was arriving precisely at the North Pole. The constantly shifting ice made it difficult to reach 90 degrees North (N90.00) and the destination lasted a split second, followed by a drift back to N89.95.
Maria Conceicao, Founder, Maria Cristina Foundation, said: “The feeling you get when you reach the top of the world is indescribable. Even though it lasts only seconds till you drift back, the initial feeling is simply overwhelming and seems like it lasts a while. The expedition was all on schedule except at the end on the day we were supposed to return, as we encountered a huge delay in being picked up. There were times when I felt nervous, but having six great children to support and love gave me the inspiration to continue what I began courageously.”
Maria was scheduled to arrive back in Longyearbyen on April 24 2011. However, bad weather conditions – with winds that reached 20 miles per hour, combined with low visibility and snow, delayed the pick-up by 70 hours. In 48 hours, due to the constant motion of the ice, she had drifted four miles from the North Pole.
Conditions improved the following day, ending in a two and a half hour plane journey back to civilization at Longyearbyen.
A key factor in the smooth completion of the trek to the North Pole was the rigorous training she received at the ‘Polar Shakedown’ in Longyearbyen. This training equipped her with the necessary survival skills to combat tough weather, anticipate potential risks of falling through the ice into freezing waters and catching hypothermia, and how to spot and deal with polar bears.
“The team at the ‘Polar Shakedown’ is incredible. In addition to how to dress properly to avoid frostbite and having your toes and fingers fall off, they showed me how a split second decides life and death at the North Pole. I was submerged in an ice hole that was freezing cold and then taught to get out with proper steps to avoid severe or fatal injuries,” Maria said.
The trek to the North Pole has helped raise awareness and funds for the foundation. The past five months of Maria hauling tyres weighing 20kg for 5 hours a day on Jumeirah Beach Road have proven to be significant and beneficial to six extraordinary Bangladeshi children.
But that is not nearly enough. More support is required to ensure these gifted children get to pursue their dreams in Dubai and have the opportunity to build better lives.
The foundation’s next endeavor is to generate funds through a photo exhibition, which displays the life of Bangladeshi children and adults alike, and also to publish a book on the topic.
The Maria Christina Foundation is on a quest to unlock and maximize human potential in developing countries. The foundation is involved in several current and planned projects, including the MC Foundation Recruitment Institute, MC Foundation Community Project, MC Foundation School to School Projects and MC Foundation Community Health Program. To support the foundation you can visit www.mariachristinafoundation.org.