Throughout my Nicest Job journey I have met some incredible people - but one of those people stick out more than all the others.
This week I am going to tell you about Maria.
Maria lived a 'normal' life as a air hostess on Emirates airlines. But one fateful trip would change the course of her life.
After getting her rota from work one day she noticed she would be flying out to Bangladesh, for the first time. Excited but nervous she packed her bags and got ready for her flight. Shortly after landing she was able to take a trip to her hotel where she noticed the many hundreds of children, homeless and starving, lining the streets.
Whilst in Bangladesh she met a young girl living on the streets. Being warned about the beggars she was told to stay away from them, but in her heart she knew that she had to do something.
So - every day she took food and basic essentials to this young girl in the hope that, in some small way, it could make a difference to her life.
Maria then got her next scheduled flight home and wondered all the way if there was anything more she could have done.
Determined not to let this young girl go un-noticed she made sure she was rostered on flights to Bangladesh every month.
But after a short while of flying back and forward, it started to dawn on her - the problem was far bigger than this one girl; it was an epidemic across the country. To her, she could only see one real way out - education.
With a lack of resources in Bangladesh, these children would live a life of poverty; a never-ending cycle of destruction because quite frankly they were unable to get themselves out.
But in Maria's heart she knew that this was what she was meant to do.
Fast-forward 11 years later. Maria worked tirelessly to set up a UK registered charity Maria Cristina Foundation and has now educated over 1,000 children in Bangladesh; taking these once poverty stricken children off the streets and given them the greatest gift of all - a chance.
Maria has 6 Guinness World Records in which she has ran 7 marathons, climbed Everest and even attempted to swim the channel - all for one cause; to take these kids off the streets and give them a better life.
When I sat with Maria back in November, I listened intently, hanging off her every word as if she were describing an epic novel. But the novel she was describing was her life - her work.
I distinctly remember welling up, the more she spoke the more emotionally involved I became and the more I could hear the heartfelt passion in her voice towards the children she so desperately wanted to help.
This humble woman sat in front of me just wanted to tell me her story and see if in any way I could help her achieve her goal. She sat next to me and opened her soul - telling me all her worries and concerns for getting these children off the streets and into school. She did not once tell me her financial position, her personal worries or woes - just those of others. In fact she was more concerned with how she was going to train to swim the English Channel this year than anything else - all to raise money for her charity. Thinking about her even now makes me want to cry. What an amazing woman, truly.
I don't think I have met anyone with such selfless conviction. How could one person dedicate their whole existence to ensuring that children from one of the poorest places on earth get the chance they so disparately deserve? Very, very few, that's the answer.
There are very few people in this world that would dedicate their life and soul to the improvement of others to such an extreme. Changing your whole life's purpose to that one goal.
Maria called me from Bangladesh a few weeks ago. I was greeted by tens of children all screaming down the camera to me. Faces beaming with such joy and happiness, to be surround by friends, peers, teachers and loved ones; but not only that - in a sanctuary, which is safe and secure. All of this, their shelter, education, food and well-being was down to one woman - Maria.
I salute you all, for doing your best to make the world a better place. Amidst all the politics, wars, discrimination, poverty and red tape - you break down those barriers to ensure that people on the ground are being helped.
Thank you Maria, and thank you to all the other Maria's out there.
You truly make this world a better place.Suggest a correction