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Educating the slums

by Maria Cristina Foundation
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Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums
Educating the slums

2019 has been a special year for us, but also a stressful one with many challenges.

We continue our main focus of getting students through to graduate high School grade 12, but we also try our best to do more than that for them.

For these students, from very challenged, marginalized backgrounds form a slum area in Dhaka Bangladesh, it is a massive achievement for them to be able to graduate from a reputable high school. Our goal from the very beginning, was to enable these students to compete with students worldwide, they have the potential, we aim to give them the opportunity. However, a high school education generally isn’t enough in this competitive world.

For any students in Bangladesh, let alone our students, it’s extremely difficult to get a University place. With very few places offered for a huge student population, it generally comes down to connections or influence. With our students being the first from their families to go to school it’s even more challenging. 

So, we have been looking at alternatives and realizing that our experience with earlier projects, taking students out of Bangladesh to study proved to be life changing and an incredible learning experience, this has been one of our ambitious goals for the last 2 years.

In 2018 we managed to send 10 students to University in Portugal and in early 2019 another 7 students. Although this has resulted in a significant and positive transformation in a short amount of time, with students showing more confidence, better English and even some Portuguese language skills; it has come with financial challenges, we have struggled to gain enough sponsorship or funds to support the costs. Unfortunately, this means that the students now graduating high school will not get the same opportunity. 

However, with a shift in strategy, we are trying a new approach, seeking work internships abroad (eg Dubai, UAE) where the students can work, learn and hopefully make some money to go towards their University costs. We have managed to put 12 students, all girls, through such a program since July this year, with some amazing companies in Dubai.

This program still comes with it financial and other challenges and is a longer route to University, but it’s a bit more sustainable and great life experience for these students.

In July we even managed to bring 8 girls between the ages 7 and 13 to Dubai for 1 month, for an incredible cultural experience. Businesses and individuals in Dubai and even visitors from abroad spoilt them rotten with dinners, parties, company visits, and leisure activities. It was fantastic for everybody, especially everybody who hosted these lovely girls – we hope to repeat this activity in 2020 for a new group of girls.

It's hard to believe some of the difficulties that these families face in their home country, we have had several heartbreaking situations this year, where the financial and even emotional support from MCF and our supporters, has literally saved lives. 
Even when our students do get a break in life, such as coming to Dubai for work experience or similar, the authorities in Bangladesh try to stop them, giving no other explanation other than not trusting their intentions. This is especially true for the women and girls and it has taken extreme levels of perseverance and even some help from some of our supporters with influential connections to make it happen.

In 2020 we move onwards and upwards, we will continue to find ways to get our students to University or to find good employment opportunities and we hope to have more cultural travel experiences for our younger students.

Thank YOU so much for your support, in any which way or form. You have quite literally made some dreams come true in 2019. We hope you continue to follow our journey for 2020.

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Paperwork, lawyers, more paperwork, attestations, rejections, stress, arguments, accusations (of human trafficking), sweat, tears, perseverance, tolerance; those are just some of the things we had to go through to get the young girls to the UAE for their summer break. The red tape and difficult people and departments in Bangladesh, just to enable them to leave their country, is really unbelievable.
But we did it! and the girls had an amazing time. Thank you to the many people who made it amazing for them. I have honestly never, ever seen them so happy and excited as I did for the month that they were here in the UAE.
The only time they weren't happy is anytime somebody mentioned going home to Dhaka. Then they cried.
So, you can imagine my joy, when they were offered scholarships by Athena school. This was really astonishing news, I was over the moon and so was everybody who had met them. The girls were literally crying with shock and happiness, it was beyond belief for them.
But unfortunately it is not to be. I am heartbroken.
... and I know that the girls and their families are even more heartbroken than me. They feel that their dreams have literally been crushed and it makes me so sad.
We did manage to do this in 2010, with the help from some people in very high up places, we brought seven 12 year old students to the UAE with exceptional case student visas, to study until they were 18. It was something that had never been done before. 
The same people tried their very best to help us again for these girls; but, unfortunately times have changed, formalities, laws and procedures have changed and become much, much tighter and it's just not possible, even at the highest level, despite trying every way. 
People who know me know that I have a never-give-up attitude and I will never give up on these girls. But I trust my superiors and when they tell that its not possible, I know that this door is closed.
But just because one door is closed, it doesn't mean that there aren't other doors out there. They may not be able to study in the UAE this time around, but we will find them the opportunities, in other countries. We have to. There is always to way, especially when it comes to helping those in need.
I know that I am biased, but these girls are special. Anyone who has met them will agree. We have educated them since they were babies, they are outgoing, ambitious and full of potential - they deserve better opportunities, opportunities - and we will find them!
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Proud Moments, but Hazards Ahead.
Recent months have been full of very proud moments for MCF. We want you, as our supporters to join us in being proud, because it wouldn’t be possible without YOU.
Our younger students in Bangladesh are showing great promise, studying hard with the goal to one-day travel abroad to study. They are also volunteering to get involved in other charity and community initiatives.
We have a new batch of students starting senior high school at grade 11; they will join Milestone school so it’s a slight change. We also have one of our high school students, Mahin, working very hard to manage admin and operations on the ground, this is a big help as we have no paid employees and very limited outside volunteer help.
A new batch of students has made the transition to Portugal to study for their degree in Braganca in Feb 2019. We now have a total of 18 students in Braganca studying for their degrees – an incredible feat considering that 14 years ago we were told that we were crazy to dream so big for these children.
I’m especially proud that the latest batch managed the process on their own, especially arranging travel to India for the Portugal visa application process, which is very complicated – they only required financial support and a push from us to the immigration authorities to speed up the process. (Standard process they need to wait in India for 42 days!)
We’re even more proud of Sumi, she had so much bad luck and delays in arranging her documents that she had to travel to India on her own, but she managed it perfectly, a very mature young lady. Now she’s working hard to catch up on studies because she started 2 months late.
The original 10 Braganca students are doing well despite the challenges, we are starting to see a real transformation in many of them, maturing and becoming strong individuals.
Our main focus is still in Bangladesh where we still have 83 students between the age of 7 and 17, studying hard. Despite their enthusiasm, we do notice the struggles. If they don’t have enough nutrition they don’t have the energy to focus.
We are trying our best now to raise funds to ensure that the families have sufficient food in the mornings so that the students have the energy to get through the school day.
We are also trying to provide better school transport; we have always struggled with this because it’s surprisingly expensive considering that it’s a developing country. We constantly worry about the hazards of travelling to school, especially with the rainy season approaching, so we hope to obtain funds to support better school transport.

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Dear Supporter

I would like to sincerely thank you for your support through GlobalGiving to 'Maria Cristina Foundation' 

We haven't always been the best in updating our supporters or even thanking them, our limited volunteers are generally very busy in the field.

Your contribution has helped us achieve great things, this includes in 2018 giving 10 of our students an opportunity to study at a university in Europe, we hope to send another 30 by the end of 2019.

They are the first generation in their families to complete secondary education and going to university. 

All of this is only possible thanks to our amazing supporters you truly understand and appreciate the strong values that we hold as a charity.

Thank you again for all you have done to help this history in the making project.

With gratitude,




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Incredible journey
Incredible journey

It has been a challngeing few months. Our students were transferred to a new school - one that we felt provided a better curriculum and better admin faciitlies, enabling us to monitor the students progress more easily.

As you can imagine this as meant alot of challenges for MCF, with the various paperwork and legal procedures required, but also for the students, to settle in to the new school.

After a few months it was brought to our attention that several of the students were struggling with the new curriculum, maybe due to a more stringent syllabus or some topics that were lacking in the previous school. So we made arrangements for additional tutoring for those students who needed it. It is essential for us that they get through the year with accpetable results.

We have been incredibly busy for the last couple of months with a fantastic project, we were able to agree a special reduced fee at the Institituto Politecnico de Braganca in Portugal, so several of our students who graduated grade 12 this year applied - after extreme diffculties obtaining their visas and travel expenses we now have 10 students studying for their degrees in Portugal - we are so proud of them.

We still have a lot of fundraising to do to secure the funds for educating all the 125 children we have remaining from the 101 families we set out with 13 years ago.

Lastly, we would like to thank each and every one of you, who have been with us since the beginning of this journey, or who just most recently join in. 

We couldn’t do all that we do without your donations, support and belief in the power of education as a tool to create a better world.

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Organization Information

Maria Cristina Foundation

Location: St Austell - United Kingdom
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @MCFConnect
Project Leader:
Katrin Winter
St Austell, United Kingdom
$15,212 raised of $120,000 goal
190 donations
$104,788 to go
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