Michael is a good friend and devoted soldier of Maya’s Hope. He is a trusted board member and gives time and attention to proper diligence when it involves anything law and tax related, and he brings his finance and non-profit expertise to help Maya’s Hope grow.
I’ve known Michael from before Maya’s Hope was born. I’ve known him even before my very first visit to the Philippines. He’s humble and works his magic behind the scenes, but I made him share this to you because I think you need to meet our rock that keeps Maya’s Hope (and Maya) going.
Read on to find out what he said to me one fateful night, that transformed my crazed personal mission into a non-profit organization… and the Family you’re a part of today…
Hi! My name is Michael Meltzer and I am the Treasurer of Maya’s Hope. I’ve been a close personal friend of Maya since before Maya’s Hope ever existed.
I never had the opportunity to meet Maya’s mother in person, but I remember how close they were and how important she was to Maya. When Maya’s mom suddenly passed away in 2007, it was a devastating loss for Maya. Up to that point her mom was virtually the only family she had. I remember being at the funeral in Washington, D.C. and just feeling her deep pain. I too know what it’s like to lose a parent – my dad passed suddenly when I was only four years old.
I have many of fond memories of him. I’m not sure which of them are actual memories and which are imaginary, having heard stories from family members and seeing countless photos – perhaps some combination of all three. In any case, I always have felt like my dad is watching over me, and I want him to be proud of me. He was an attorney and my mom has always told me that he thought I’d be a great lawyer one day.
I think that’s part of the reason I decided to go to law school at night even though my career had taken a different path. There’s a framed photo of my dad from when he was in his twenties that I keep up. Everyone says that I look just like him. My mom always tells me that I am just like him. It always brings a smile to my face to hear that.
So I knew that losing her mom would change Maya in certain ways. It’s just not possible to lose someone you love so much and not have it change you. When Maya told me the following winter after her mother had passed that she was taking a trip to visit orphanages in the Philippines, her mother’s home country, I thought it was a nice idea, even though not the typical vacation that we were used to taking.
While there she somehow stumbled upon this orphanage and immediately fell in love with these children. You all know this story from Maya’s journal entry titled, “How My Mom Taught Me to Fight for Orphan Children”, so I don’t need to repeat it! That said, I saw firsthand how Maya’s priorities in life shifted.
She was running around like crazy trying to help these kids; collecting books, or diapers, or Band-Aids, or toothpaste – aggregating as much as could fit in the box the shipping company was willing to send for the ridiculously low rate she negotiated and spending her own money to send these things over. I could see her thinking about how she spent money, knowing how far the money could go to help these poor kids live their lives over there. Maya worked hard and earned a nice living, but she began to no longer be able to justify ordering that extra $18 appetizer at dinner in a NYC restaurant when that same $18 could buy shoes for 40 children who would otherwise walk around barefoot.
I must admit, at first I was a little skeptical about her behavior. I am pretty sheltered. Even though I had lost a parent, I always had my mom who took terrific care of me and I was never lacking for any material thing. But I saw how happy it made Maya to help these kids, and Maya really needed some happiness at that time in her life. So I indulged her and asked how I could be of help.
By way of background, I am a portfolio manager at Tocqueville Asset Management in New York City, focusing on managing the assets of high net worth individuals and institutions, including non-profits. I actually had spent the first few years of my career at Bear Stearns Asset Management focusing exclusively on business development and client service for the non-profit clients of the company.
Having experience in this arena, I said to Maya at some point, “Maya – you are doing all this work yourself for these kids – you are basically running a not-for-profit organization on your own and you are the sole source of funding!”
She said she never thought about developing an organization; she just wanted to help these kids. Well, it wasn’t too much longer before Maya’s Hope was an official not-for-profit organization, that I am a proud to serve on the board. In fact, in May 2012, Maya’s Hope became an official 501(c)3 public charity!
Maya’s Hope has accomplished so much in such a short period of time. So many children have a chance at a happy future because of the love and attention of this one special person with the biggest heart on the planet who started it all, even though she didn’t realize what she was starting at the time. Sure, my role in the organization is more administrative, but when I get cards from my precious sponsor child, Princess, I can’t even begin to tell you how it melts my heart.
She calls me “Uncle Michael” just like my nieces and nephews do. I haven’t met her in person, but she is so genuinely appreciative of all the care that she gets from the Bethlehem House of Bread Orphanage, which is made possible just from me setting aside an amount of money that I’d otherwise spend in one night on cheap takeout food. It feels really good to know that doing so little can mean so much to someone! Princess invited me to visit her in the Philippines. Maybe one day I will!
Since I’m the Maya in Maya’s Hope, I’m going to have the last word
This was PRE-Maya’s Hope… He’s just the best Michael in the world! I just wanted to start introducing my partner with Maya’s Hope so that people know he’s my amazing friend, files tax returns, will now be reconciling my monthly sponsorship program to Philippines and Ukraine (which I have been doing for 3 years? 4 years? And he is my compliance guy… (He yells at me for wording that is inappropriate… although he lets me refer to our kids as “cutie pies”)…
If you’re wondering how Maya’s Hope is growing and building its reputation, one big reason is thanks to Michael Cutie Pie Superstar Meltzer. Thanks Amex for being just the BEST.
And thank you for believing in the children (and in Maya’s Hope)!
Big Squishy Hugs,
Submitted by Maya Rowencak.