Kimberly Elmore, an Identity Staff Writer has dedicated her time to “Scratch the Surface” and focusing on one woman and her inspirational story. Kimberly’s interviews to highlight any woman who feels that she has achieved in her life. Whether you’re a mother, CEO, nurse, or an entrepreneur, we want to scratch the surface and find out how you got to where you are today and what have you learned and where you found your inspiration.
Who from your past impacted your life in a positive way? Who helped guide you down your current path? Who believed in you? These are the questions Maya Rowencak, founder of Maya’s Hope—a non-profit that helps disadvantaged children living in extreme poverty, has asked herself. And her answer was her mom. Maya’s mom passed away suddenly five years ago, and her life has never been the same.
After her mom’s death, Maya reflected on all her achievements, which caused her to feel immense guilt. Why guilt? Because Maya realized she had taken her mom for granted and she’d never be able to repay her and thank her for all the love and support she provided Maya. “My mom was my support. She helped me make decisions. She encouraged me. When I lost all of that, I felt empty. I felt like I was in the air and I had no safety net,” says Maya. “There were times when I would see a grandmother pushing her grandchild in a stroller and I would tear up knowing that my mom would never see my children. And my children would never know how great a mother she was. After she died, I felt like I became an orphan.”
Maya reframed the guilt she was feeling into a pay-it-forward movement. She learned through the loss of her mom that the secret to living forever is to make a difference in other people’s lives. Maya says, “Through your kind gestures and compassion for others, they are changed by you. Then when they share it with others, it spreads onward like wildfire.” Although Maya’s mom is no longer here, it’s her mom’s love that fuels Maya’s passion to help forgotten, neglected, and orphaned children because she now understands the loss, loneliness, and search for guidance that these children go through every day.
What is Maya’s Hope? It’s based on five principles: See, Build, Give, Hope, and Love.
SEE: Through direct visits to institutions abroad that do not provide enough for the needs of orphaned and disadvantaged children, Maya’s Hope observes and evaluates the conditions of institutions, the standards of care and education, and the integrity/behavior of care workers, social workers, staff, and the children. BUILD: Maya’s Hope builds relationships with administrators and individuals concerned about disadvantaged children. GIVE: Maya’s Hope raises awareness for disadvantaged children around the world, raises funds, and finds corporate and individual sponsors who assist in shipping humanitarian aid including medicines, clothing, and dental products. HOPE: After receiving aid, the institutions send letters, photos, and updates about the children and their progress. LOVE: Maya’s Hope maintains relationships with administrators providing continuous aid and awareness. It’s not only aid and hope that is brought to the children in need, but also love. Currently, Maya’s Hope sends aid to orphanages and institutions for children in the Philippines and Ukraine.
“With Maya’s Hope, I discovered the power of my unique identity. I learned that nothing is guaranteed in life, and the world changes constantly,” says Maya. “Embrace who you are. Be thankful for everything and everyone that helped shape who you are today.” And, most importantly, Maya adds, “Strive to love and be compassionate to other people, and leave an impression so deep that they feel compelled to pass it on to others.”
This is just the beginning. There is so much more to learn about Maya’s Hope. This is truly just scratching the surface of all that Maya’s Hope offers to children in need! To learn more, in Maya’s own words, visit here: http://mayashope.org/2012/02/19/how-will-you-leave-your-mark-on-the-world/
Maya answers our Identity Five.
1. What have you accepted in your life that took time?
Maya: “I am who I am. My passions, my interests, my skills, what drives me…I accept that I am different. I have always been different. I sometimes thought I was weird that I liked foreign movies as a child, that I practiced piano for hours on end in basements in college and didn’t party, that I always taught French lessons in New York City, even though I held a good job. I was always busy, creative, hardworking, and love the most random things. And I realized that I’m not like everyone else. And I like that. I like Thai food and muay thai, but I like cute children who come from the worst conditions. When people are traveling to the Caribbean for vacation getaways, I choose to stay at orphanages in places like Ukraine and the Philippines. Yup, I’m just me.”
2. What do you appreciate the most in your life?
Maya: “I appreciate my health, my brains, and my physical strength. I don’t just appreciate one thing. While I adore people, and I am passionate about helping others, I realize that at the end of the day, I am responsible for myself. As long as I am healthy, of sound mind, and have my strength to do the physical activities like muay thai, I am forever grateful to be alive and can help others along the way. You can’t help others until you help yourself first.”
3. What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life?
Maya: “The most rewarding achievement was getting a hearing aid for a child in the Philippines. I could have easily bought Mary Jane a hearing aid, but I was determined to get her a hearing aid, and get others to participate in giving her this gift. Not only did so many people contribute to getting her hearing and therapy, but the Starkey Hearing Aid Foundation donated a hearing aid and she is forever on the minds of the Starkey Hearing Foundation. I wasn’t one person who cared to get her a hearing aid; I got the attention of so many people who wanted to help her. Mary Jane is a child who’s loved by many, and not just me.”
4. What is your not-so-perfect way?
Maya: “I can’t list my flaws…there are too many!! I’m a perfectionist. I can’t send anything out unless I am really happy with it. That’s the annoying part. I always want things polished and perfect. But when you run an organization of volunteers, you often have to ‘keep it moving’ because otherwise the details hinder growth. Making a video for
example, I can find a thousand things wrong, but if I keep dwelling on it, I can never get on to the next project. And trust me, there are MANY ‘next’ projects!”
5. How would you complete the phrase, “I Love My…”?
Maya: “I love my…gift of gab. One thing I can honestly say I got from my dad is the gift of talking, and talking, and talking. I think I can talk to anyone about anything I’m truly passionate about. I think that’s why Maya’s Hope has been as successful as it has become.”
Also, follow Maya’s Hope on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/MayasHope