My name is Maya. And I’m the person who answers all the emails that are sent to Maya’s Hope. (Sometimes, another volunteer will answer, but it’s mostly me.)

This is me.


Maya and Yura

We’ve had this website up for a few years (can you tell? we’re building a new site, don’t you worry!) and I didn’t even have a FAQ page…

(No FAQ page? What was I thinking?)

Since I’m the person answering most of the emails, I decided to answer this in the same fashion as I would in an email.


So I made a list of questions to help you get the answers you need BEFORE you ask!

Since I would like to refer people to this FAQ page, I will number each question.


If you want to add your question which you think is on everyone’s minds… email info @

1) What proof is there the money goes where we want it?

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SOME of the superstars

If you are sponsoring a child in the Philippines, the funds are sent monthly via check to our partner (Bethlehem House of Bread) which is in Bulacan, Philippines.  From that money, each child is bought the same monthly necessities (food, school supplies, etc) or whatever is needed most urgently. For children who have special needs, they are allotted more (their sponsorships are generally double) and it goes towards their special needs education and other necessities.


When I started sponsoring kids in 2009 (before Maya’s Hope became official), there were 5 kids in the sponsorship program so it was easy to just buy items for those 5 kids every month.  Over the years, we had to pool the funds together so it would be easier for distribution.   We have kids in different areas (Bustos, Manila, Norzagaray) so for us to manage this well and efficiently (with volunteer partners in the Philippines), the sponsorship funds go towards one large purchase which is divided among each child, with the exception of kids with special needs. We have 91 kids sponsored as of now. (As of January 20, 2014)

So the proof: Proof are in photos and letters. Photos we receive more regularly than the letters.  Since our partners are volunteers (social workers and one employee at the orphanage) we cannot demand monthly reports because they also have a lot of work on their hands.  When Maya’s Hope can  hire staff who are able to work in this region, we can provide more proof.

As for Ukraine, we provide videos, photos, and monthly letters from caregivers (which we translate from Russian to English – again done by volunteers).  This can be found on our blog.

All our videos can be found here.

Our 2012 Financial Report is here.

If you have any financial questions that I can ease your mind, just email

2) Why did you start Maya’s Hope?

Well, I sorta answered it here… but if I had to say the pivotal moment in my life that made me think about orphans… it was after losing my mom. The year after she died, I “randomly” decided to visit an orphanage for Christmas.  Through more “random” acts (of God), I found myself in the provinces of the Philippines with kids who moved and inspired me so much that when I returned to my desk in New York City, I made sure to contact companies to get those kids stuff. (Stuff is dental supplies, diapers, books, etc.)

After receiving tons of donations from companies… my friend Michael said, “Maya, you’re running a non-profit on your own and paying for everything. Let’s make it a charity.”  Then voila!

Here’s the link once again in case you didn’t click above:

Just to confirm, Maya’s Hope was not an intention. It was an inspiration.  I don’t really plan life. It just happens. :)

3) Who was the inspiration behind Maya’s Hope?


Kyla is far left.

That’s a complicated question. I can say, it was my mom because I missed her, and I wanted to give back to helping orphans.  But it was certain kids that touched my heart. I thought I was going to go to an orphanage, feel good about myself, pat myself on the back, go back to my corporate job and spend money at Saks as usual.

But it was a little girl Kyla who really got to me.  She was my Christmas present and I guess she reminded me a little of myself. She was this loud kid who was fearless. She could dance, she would throw tantrums, she wanted to sing for me.  She was 5 years old and she was like that kid you’d see on some America’s Got Talent. I remember she was sleeping and as I watched her, I started to cry. It was on Christmas Eve.  I was asking myself what I was doing in the Philippines on Christmas with people I didn’t know, in a foreign country, … and then I broke down.

I cried because as I stared at Kyla sleeping, I realized she had no one ever who kisses her at night. No one who tucks her in. It hit me so hard at that moment that Kyla was so happy to be with someone who showed her love.  I stroked her head while she was asleep and was sobbing because I totally understood this kid.  I always made sure to give her hugs and kisses because I knew it was a great treasure for her.  But she was my treasure. I met many other kids during that first visit, but it was Kyla who really changed me.  Kind of like I got struck by lightning.

The last I heard of Kyla was that her dad came to the orphanage one day, and he took her away.  Her father is a tricycle driver.  She has no mom.



Maya and Vanya





As for Ukraine… it was little Vanya who stole my heart. I was taken by this fierceless and loving boy who just so happened to have Down Syndrome.  I didn’t see Vanya as a child with a disability.  He was “just Vanya.”  He really changed my overall perspective on life and when I left that orphanage, I was determined to find a way to help him and the other kids at his orphanage.

4) How do I write my sponsor child?  Do they write back?


You can send me an email and I can give instructions on mailing a letter to the Philippines.  It requires putting additional information such as the sponsor child’s name and ID number. (ID number is required because there can be children that have the same name. We have three girls named Princess.   If you just want to send a letter/package right away, here is the address:


Bethlehem House of Bread

ATTN: Leila Fernando-Tolosa

Little Baguio, Baliwag

Bulacan, Philippines 3006



(Sorry, did I write in all caps? I did. Please read the passage again. Remember, it is an orphanage that receives mail and packages from all over the world. If you do not have an email, accidentally forget to mention Maya’s Hope, do not have include a name with a return address, and you send a package totally out of the blue, Leila won’t know who it is from.  And then if you write an email two months later asking – Did the orphanage get my package?  I will say, what package? etc… Well you get my point. Please mark MAYA’S HOPE with your return info inside.)  


You can send a letter to Ukraine, but the children have special needs and can’t read your English.  If you would like to send a letter, you can email to get the address.

Mailing anything to Ukraine (from the USA) is a bit more complicated.  If you plan on sending anything to Ukraine, please note that our policy is NEW ITEMS ONLY.  We can recommend Russian and Ukrainian shipping companies for larger parcels if you find that United States Postal Service is too expensive (or if you’re just not a fan of standing in long lines.) And if you’re mailing from another country, you can google shipping to Ukraine from where you are because that would be faster than emailing me.

Ukrainians Laws that seem to apply to (only?) Americans include:

-Each box cannot contain more than 300 Euro value. (That’s about $406 USD as of January 2014) Box or boxes of this value can be shipped to one person per address.  (I know, I know. Hey, I didn’t make these laws.)

-All new items must have a “certificate of quality.”  (Trust me, I didn’t now what that meant either. Hence the quotes.)

And other rules.

If you hate rules, shipping and want to be green, donate at  You can then email and make “reasonable” requests for purchases to be made within the USA or within Ukraine.

An example of “reasonable” would mean –  a small toy, clothing that would fit a child, an item that may not be sold within Ukraine that a child requires.

An example of “unreasonable” would be – an oversized bicycle or huge medical equipment to Ukraine.

(Sorry, we don’t have storage space here in New York and because of these Ukrainian laws, we try not to exceed values because we’re going to have to send to each person in the village. That was a joke.)

Doing this work for the past years, I have to be super explicit or else my instructions become “subject to interpretation.” (I enjoy quotes.)



5) Does Maya sleep?

Not sure. I think so, but as I write this, I’m awake and most people are probably sleeping now in this time zone.


6) Why all the pink?5579_727682383917248_1459630548_n (1)

The honest truth? I really like pink. I like fuchsia.  And when I decided a Lotus was going to be our symbol, I wanted it to be fuchsia. Therefore, our color is fuchsia. So there. :)


7) Why Glitter?


Glitter was something I added to Maya’s Hope in 2013.  I realized that we needed something extra… some extra vavavavoom… and I love Glitter. I started making hand-made cards made with LOVE and Glitter… and it was putting a smile on people’s faces.  The idea was that glitter gets all over you, and then you have to explain to your boss why there’s glitter on your face at the Monday morning meeting.  Before you know it, the glitter recipient is explaining how there’s this crazy girl named Maya who runs a charity called Maya’s Hope and she sends these cards in the mail filled with glitter because she wants to help orphan kids…

For those sponsors who have requested “NO GLITTER!!!!” I send them cards that have been made with glitter glue. No glitter, no mess. But still all the glitter fabulousness.

(Yes, I wrote fabulousness.)


8) How often does Maya visit kids homes?

Since working with the Philippines, I go once a year.  It really depends. I had a dayjob so I had to squeeze in trips. I went to the Philippines for 5 days once. That was brutal. It takes two days to get there.  I can get sometimes more stuff done when I have less days to be honest.  I spent 3 weeks in the Philippines one summer and I feel I got more done in the 5 day-visit!

I visit the kids, but I cannot visit every sponsor child’s home.  Too many kids. The ones who are at the orphanage, I do get to spend time with. I have my little Booboo Ryan, who acts as my assistant.

As for Ukraine, I always do annual visits because we have a greater responsibility. We hire caregivers, pay for therapy, and other medically related costs.  I go there just to check on how everything is… including how the overall care has improved.

This is Yura.


9) How else can we help?

Oh my…. this question is too large to answer here. You can help with

– fundraising

-spreading the word about Maya’s Hope

-getting donations of products

-spreading us on blogs

-liking us on Facebook

-helping us apply for grants


That’s JUST a drop in the bucket…. Email info @ if you have a specific talent that you want to contribute.

In the meantime, you can read these links:

11) What happens if I want to cancel?

You can cancel at any time. You can send an email to cancel or if you have automatic payments set up with PayPal or Chase, you can cancel yourself.  We just ask that you contact us directly if you want to cancel.


12) What happens to my child if I stop sponsoring?

If a sponsor discontinues sponsorship, Maya’s Hope still continues to provide for that child.  I am responsible for our Facebook page and I reach out to finding new sponsors via email and Facebook so that the child can have a new sponsor.  I immediately notify our partner in the Philippines, so the child is aware of the change.  When the child writes letters, the child addresses the sponsor.


11) What’s Maya’s favorite cheese?

My favorite cheese…. probably the stinkiest French cheese.  That’s my weakness. Repulsively foul smelling French cheese. I don’t know how this is possible. I grew up eating McDonald’s and Popeyes Chicken. (Maybe we will get an product endorsement from Popeyes?)


12) Do you do group mission trips?

For the moment, no.  The reason is, we don’t have a staff that can organize a group trip.  It takes a lot of planning and we have to also do background checks on each and every person who wants to visit an orphanage.

Yes, we perform background checks.  I love these cutie pies so very much and I made it a policy that visitors who go through Maya’s Hope must have a background check.  No ifs, ands or buts.

13) Can I visit the orphanages or my sponsor child?

Yes, once these all have been met…



1) you need to give 3 months notice BEFORE a visit

2) you will have to have a background check and are responsible for any costs pertaining to the background check

3) you will have to schedule a skype call with us

4) once you have been approved*, we can arrange a visit.


* (asterisk time!) Approval is based on many different factors.  Since our partners are based in different countries with different cultural values and laws, we have to respect their policies on visitors.  Some of our partners are state-run orphanages. If for any reason a law is passed that denies access to foreigners, we must abide by laws within that country.  Ukraine likes to pass laws. :)  The just passed this one on January 16, 2014.


For more specific questions, email


14) Are you an adoption agency?



15) Can you refer us to an adoption agency?


Why? Well, if we refer you to an agency and something horrrrrrible happens, we don’t want you to come back and say, “Maya, you referred us to this agency and this awful thing happened.”

(Here is an example of “worse case scenario”)


16) Can we adopt from the orphanages you work with?

Yes. But only certain ones.  Email for details


17) Why the Philippines?

Well, if you read the link above about How it all started… you may understand.  I just think it was fate or God that led me to the Philippines. I was really supposed to go to Thailand in 2008 but because of all the turmoil in Thailand – the citizens were taking over government offices and shutting down the airports, I just decided on the Philippines.  A Filipino priest just happened to come visit me a WEEK after I made the decision to visit orphanages. He told me, “They speak English in the Philippines.”  He sold me on it. After all, he’s a priest and he was a close friend of my mother.

My mom is Filipino, born and raised (with a name like Maria Milagros Cruz…) And it just so happened that I fell in love with these kids and the people I was helping.  I don’t like to say I do this work because these kids are Filipino. I do it because it’s the right thing to do.

No child should have to walk around barefoot or have to sell rags for a few pesos… or sell flowers past midnight. I saw extreme poverty that I had never seen before and children were greatly affected by it.

Every child on this planet has value. I firmly believe this.


18) Why Ukraine?

It’s kinda silly.  But this is how it happened.


Palawan, Philippines. Does it look like it snows here?

I did a clothing drive for the Philippines. And apparently, there were New Yorkers who donated who did not realize that it doesn’t snow in the Philippines.  I received a lot of winter coats. Yes, coats. (Smack my forehead).

So, I did my research and looked for a country that had cold winters (other than Russia) that had a lot of orphans.  Ukraine was one of the most logical choices, based on my research.  So we forwarded coats to orphanages in Ukraine.

My dad is ethnically Ukrainian (meaning I’m half Ukrainian.) So it’s fate that brought me to this region.

When I had done all my research and started visiting Ukraine, I found that the orphanages in most need were mental institutions.  I had seen quite a few orphanages with Sr. Bernarda, but Kalinovka was a place that I felt so much of the pain of each and every child. It wasn’t just a bunch of faces. It was as if each child made an impression on me.  It’s fate. Plain and simple. I was supposed to go to Kalinovka.


19) How did you discover Kalinovka?

I had spent several weeks in Ukraine one summer and was a bit disappointed with my visits.  Many of the orphanages that we found through internet searches seemed to be “just fine”.  It was nothing horrible or horrifying. Kids were clean, well behaved, and sometimes well traveled.  (Some orphans participated in host programs so they had visited other countries. Some kids spent summers in Italy.)  One night, I was a google maniac digging for info on orphanages.  Most information is in Russian so my search was  limited. Around 2:00 am, I found a site that had all these awful images, the graves of children, and I was curious.  I emailed my friend and translator… I said, this is my last chance and it’s like 12 hours away.  I have no idea what we will find, but are you willing to go?  She said, yes!

After an overnight bus ride, I was greeted by Albert Pavlov, founder of Happy Child when I arrived in Zaporozhia. He drove me around and the rest is history.

20) Can I send used items to the Philippines or Ukraine?


After going through the “used clothing” phase in the beginning of our organization, I changed it our policy to ” New Items Only” (with the exception of horrible disasters such as the typhoon in 2013 in the Philippines.)

When I first started sending care packages, I made it my personal goal to never send used items. The reason was that I didn’t think it was a nice gesture to give people used items.  When we did clothing drives for orphan children, people’s concept of used included the following:

old panties

old socks

old stockings

stained clothing with holes

clothing with cat fur

clothing that smelled of mildew

shoes that didn’t resemble shoes anymore

plus size clothing

If you want to read a really strong argument against sending items… read this:

When someone asked me, “can I send used clothing and toys? ”

I asked, ” If I gave your child a used toy, how would you feel?”

She responded, “insulted and hurt.”

I then asked, “So if you were the parent of a child who received a used toy from an American, how do you think she would feel?”

21.  Isn’t Ukraine corrupt?

Uh oh… I do get this a lot. Heck, I get Ukrainians telling me, “I know my country. I don’t trust them.”

We partner with Happy Child which is an accredited charity.  We do wire transfers and they report our contributions. Happy Child is responsible for the hiring of caregivers and staff. They are responsible for providing pictures, videos and updates on the children.

I’ll go into this more when I answer the question about lobbying governments. And no, we don’t lobby. We only hug cutie pies.

22.  Isn’t the Philippines corrupt? Didn’t the government set up those fake NGOs?

Oy vey… Yes, the Philippines government set up fake NGOs.

Didn’t know? Now you do. Read here–>

We partner with Bethlehem House of Bread which is an accredited charity in the Philippines.  If you would like us to forward you copies of their certificate, we can do so!

If you want to join their Facebook page, go HERE.

23. Do you have celebrity endorsement? ryan_gosling

Good question. That depends on your definition of celebrity.  If you mean a movie star celebrity like Ryan Gosling? No. We would love celebrity endorsement.  (Hint hint, Ryan Gosling.)


24. How much of my donation actually goes to the kids?

For the Philippines, 100% of the donations we receive are forwarded to our partner in the Philippines, Bethlehem House of Bread. Of that money, there is a bank charge which is absorbed. Then a small percentage goes to pay for gas and other administrative needs.  It takes a couple hours just to reach the kids from the orphanage.  Maya’s Hope absorbs the costs of PayPal and the cost of wiring funds.  That comes from operation costs that we raise separately.

For Ukraine, our programs vary. We have programs that fund the caregivers and another that funds medically related costs for bedridden children.  (Guardian Angel and Margarita’s Hope.) The funds are pooled by all the sponsors and individual donations to cover salaries every month of our caregivers.  The needs of bedridden children vary per month.  We cover gas, massages, extra rehabilitation, and formula.  In 2014, we will do our best to have more financial reports.  We previously did an annual report.  (It’s not that we don’t want to show you where money goes, it’s just we have volunteers with very busy day jobs.)

25. How much is for administrative costs?

Administrative costs vary. We have shipping, mailing, transportation, office supplies, PayPal, banking fees, graphic design. It varies from month to month and we’d have to do a breakdown that requires a regular bookkeeper. Until we have operation costs to hire staff, it’s very difficult to keep up with monthly reporting.  We don’t have an office, so no overhead.


26.  How much does Maya get paid?

The great mystery… NADA. I get paid zilch, zip. No salary with Maya’s Hope.

Trust me, I get asked this all the time, and then I get the follow up question: How do you support yourself?

(But since that’s a personal question and I’m reallllly private, I can actually dodge it.  Just like if someone were to ask me who I am dating, I would dodge the question.)

The ultimate goal is that I receive a salary from Maya’s Hope, but until we get major corporate funding and grants, Maya just works without pay.

If you want to give toward operation costs, we need it.

 27. Who pays for Maya’s trips?

Maya’s Hope operation costs pay for my trips.  We raise money at our annual gala and get general donations throughout the year. My trips to Ukraine and Philippines are covered because I have to do reports and record videos.  I have to meet with partners and discuss all the good things and bad things that are happening. From my visits, I use the material throughout the year to raise money for new programs to make improvements in the lives of the children.

Side note: in December 2012, my trip to the Philippines was not covered by Maya’s Hope.  Since the trip was 5 days, it was not approved to be expensed. So, I paid $1400 out of pocket for my ticket. (Transparency!) Before Maya’s Hope was a charity, I funded all of my trips to the Philippines and Ukraine. I never raised money towards my flights and expenses. 

28. How do I throw a glitter party?

Simple. You just gather a bunch of your glitter-crazy friends, purchase 65-pound paper, elmer’s glue, glitter and you got yourself a party!

You can email for more details on how to make the cards.


Do you want to volunteer and have amazing talents to helping it become bigger and better?


If you have more questions, email and if it’s asked at least 50 times, we’ll add it here!