x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Charity scheme helps youths escape poverty

A charity started by a former Emirates Airline flight attendant is helping young men from a Bangladesh slum to receive job training in Dubai so that they can eventually help their family members back home.

Sumon Azad, centre, is one of the four teenagers brought in the UAE by the Maria Cristina Foundation. Azad joins Raufikul Hussain, left, and Shafiqul Islam, who took jobs, through the same charity.
Sumon Azad, centre, is one of the four teenagers brought in the UAE by the Maria Cristina Foundation. Azad joins Raufikul Hussain, left, and Shafiqul Islam, who took jobs, through the same charity.

DUBAI // With big dreams of moving their families out of a very poor neighbourhood in Bangladesh, four young men began training for jobs in Dubai this week.

The teenagers hope to eventually gain employment in the hospitality or airline sector.

"I am the happiest person in the world, my heart is lifting up with joy," said an ecstatic Rubel Rahman, 18.

He hopes to study while working to achieve his goal of becoming a pilot.

"I always thought I would be a rickshaw driver or a garment worker," said Mr Rahman.

Helping the group, all age 18 and 19, to pursue careers in the emirate is a project launched seven years ago by Maria Conceicao, a former Emirates Airline flight attendant who lives in Dubai.

"A good job here can break the cycle of poverty," said Ms Conceicao, who is fulfilling a promise she made to herself in 2005 - to make a difference in the lives of the slum children she saw during stop-overs in Dhaka with the airline crew.

"To see them all grown up and training in Dubai makes me believe that the impossible can become possible," Ms Conceicao said. "I want them to be independent, not rely on me or you or on charity."

On Sunday, the four young men began a 45-day training stint at Emirates Airline.

If they make the grade, they will be integrated into the company. They are understandably excited - the minimum Dh2,000 monthly wage is more than they could earn in a year back in Bangladesh. The average monthly minimum wage in Dhaka is 3,000 taka (Dh135).

Ms Conceicao launched her charity with the mammoth task of providing education and health care to hundreds of children in the Dhaka slum of Gawair.

For many, it was the first time they had attended school.

Her Maria Cristina Foundation has also helped five pupils from the Dhaka school to study in Dubai over the past two years. Their visas were sponsored by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

They live with host families and are on full school scholarships.

The young men who began training this week are the second batch to pursue jobs here.

They follow seven others who already took jobs with Emirates Airline, Dnata, Dulsco and the Royal Mirage Hotel over the past year.

Mr Rahman hopes to follow in their footsteps to help his family.

"My family works day and night and gets hardly any money," he said.

"They earn, they eat and they cannot save. If someone falls ill, there is no money left. Here, I have a chance to get a good job and help my family build a house."

While the charity is helping others, it too is in need of assistance.

Without a regular source of funding, it relies on a tight-knit team of volunteers and local donors for support.

To raise funds, the foundation has made available red T-shirts emblazoned with a heart. It plans to sell them online at www.mariacristinafoundation.org.

rtalwar@thenational.ae