Dubai: Two expatriates in the UAE have joined hands to raise awareness about children in Bangladesh slums, while also trying to bring them over to the UAE for paid internships.

Bachir Gemayel, a Lebanese expat in Abu Dhabi, is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania today. At 5,895 metres, it is Africa’s highest mountain. His aim is to draw attention to the social work of Maria Conceicao, another expatriate in the UAE, whose Maria Cristina Foundation [MCF] helps children in slums in Bangladesh get schooling and internships.

Later, on April 2, Gemayel plans to run 84km in 24 hours in the UAE for the same cause. Gemayel has a broken left hand, but says he still wants to go ahead with his plans.

Moved by a story

The 41-year-old, who is general manager, sales, at a car dealership, said he was moved after reading Conceicao’s biography ‘A Woman on Top of the World’. Gemayel said: “The book is very inspiring. She [Conceicao] is like an angel, what she has done for the children is amazing … Then I learned that she lives in Dubai. I contacted her and that’s how we started working together.”

Gemayel’s feats will be followed on social media, highlighting the work and the book by Conceicao.

Months-long plan

Conceicao, who is Portuguese, said in the next five months she plans to bring 14 school students from the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka to Dubai for paid internships. Conceicao, a former airline cabin crew, added: “They are the first from their families to have an education. Their experience in Dubai will help them learn new skills and hopefully raise some funds to go to university in September 2021 by selling books.” Conceicao has been helping children in slums get an education since 2005 when she was moved by their plight during a visit to Dhaka while on a break from her airline job.

‘Emotional day’

In the latest drive, she hopes Gemayel’s feats will raise more awareness about these children. A few of them have already been placed at Gemayel’s company for internships. Three more arrived in Dubai on Tuesday. Speaking of their arrival, Conceicao said: “Another emotional and amazing day. Early this [Tuesday] morning, three more ‘butterflies’ arrived in Dubai. They themselves are making history for their families, having completed their education with MCF.”

‘Break the mould’

She added: “They have graduated and are ready for university. For generations, their families have struggled living in poor remote villages or city slums. These students will be the change-makers to break the mould so that future generations will not have the same struggles and barriers to progress. They will be in Dubai for three months, minimum, to get valuable work experience and hopefully raise some funds for their university study.”

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