Your Name: Maya Rowencak

Business Name: Maya’s Hope Foundation, an organization that sends financial aid to orphanages around the world

Type of Business: Social Enterprise

Business Location: New York, New York, United States

Twitter @mayashope

Reason for starting
In 2007, I lost my mom unexpectedly. It made me realize life’s short and if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans, because you never know what tomorrow brings. I hated myself for being ungrateful and taking her for granted, because I later realized how much she loved me. She taught me what it meant to be loved unconditionally. And after she was gone…there was no way I could ever tell her Thank You. One day, I saw a cranky girl on the subway and, after making her laugh, something clicked: I decided to spend Christmas with children who also didn’t have a mom. I felt incredibly empty and lonely then, but I thought – hey, at least I had a mother. I figured maybe I could share the love with children who didn’t. Fast forward to today: our non-profit sends aid and love to impoverished children, especially those who never experienced a mother’s love.

How do you define success?
It’s warmth and peace in your heart when you feel loved. Because I think without love, no amount of success will ever be fulfilling. It’ll be cold and empty like Scrooge swimming alone in his money bin…or crossing the finish line and looking to the stands and not having anyone to cheer with you. Next to my bed, I keep in a box some of the letters the “big girls” gave me at an orphanage in the Philippines. One wrote: “For the first time in my life, I’m not pangit (ugly) to you Ate (Big sister) Maya.” Can you believe that? Her whole life, she didn’t have anyone tell her she was beautiful. So, success to me is when a child grows up with love in his or her heart. Every child deserves to feel loved. And every child deserves to have the tools and opportunities to create a happy life.

Biggest Success
Helping children go to school and preventing malnutrition; giving a girl a hearing aid so she could hear for the very first time; rescuing abandoned babies who need formula; funding caregivers for severely disabled children at an orphanage… every success with these children is a big success! In addition, I learned the power of telling my personal story. It’s a beacon to others like me–people who experienced a deep and personal loss–to show them there’s a way to heal, and there’s a way to pay back love. And that is to pay it forward. I write a little more about that here:

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Staying sane. I have a full-time job outside Maya’s Hope Foundation, so I’m often a zombie from going days without sleep. It gets crazy, like shipping gifts to our Philippines orphanage this Christmas; visiting Ukraine to check on our caregiver program; or making the call to stop helping an orphanage because they couldn’t communicate with us well enough to serve our sponsors. One way I manage it is by automating things I do more than 3 times. E.g., if I find myself answering the same questions over and over, I’ll compile them into a Q&A article so I can do it once & use it forever. But most important of all is to have a good answer to the question, “Why are you doing this?” It’s your rock in the storm.

Who is your most important role model?
My mom. She taught me to be thankful for everything and everyone you have each day and not to take things for granted. She left me with a feeling of appreciation for every little or grand sacrifice she made… and an indebtedness that’s become both my curse and blessing. A curse because I can never tell her thank you now. And a blessing because it’s become my mission to pay her love forward to the forgotten, neglected and abandoned children. (come join us at!)