Maria’s ultramarathons challenge to help educate Bangladesh children

Maria Conceicao has climbed Mount Everest and Mount Kilimanjaro. She has trekked to the North Pole.

But these feats pale in comparison with her latest physical challenge – running seven 50km ultramarathons on seven continents in seven weeks.

Maria is founder of the Maria Cristina Foundation, which was set up to provide schools and education for the street children of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

She explained: “My aim is simple – to raise $1million and draw global attention to the foundation’s pioneering work, which has been to challenge the class system and to break the vicious cycle of poverty in Bangladesh by helping the impoverished to live up to their maximum potential.

“Running these seven ultra-marathons is going to be the toughest challenge I have ever taken on, but that is nothing compared to the daily struggle our kids face on the streets of Dhaka.’

Maria started her 777 Ultramarathon challenge with a 50km run across Antarctica in January. In February, she added South America, Asia, Europe and Australia to the list. She will finish the endurance test in March with ultramarathons in North America and Africa.

She is also trying to claim two Guinness World Records – the fastest time by a female to complete an ultramarathon on each continent  and the fastest aggregate time by a female to complete an ultramarathon on each continent.

The Portguese activist, who now lives in Dubai, became aware of the plight of the Dhaka street children during a visit to Bangladesh in 2005.

She said: “For the past nine years the Maria Cristina Foundation has nurtured and fostered hundreds of young boys and girls who have shown tremendous potential to pursue higher education.

“I would like to secure educational scholarships and employment opportunities worldwide, to formulate a sustainable long-term partnership with corporations and educational bodies.”

In Bangladesh, 80% of children receive only two or three hours of school per week. You can find out more about the education challenges facing the country.

You can read about Maria and her work at the Maria Cristina Foundation website.