5 reasons why I volunteer for Maya’s Hope by Thomas Dahlke (Volunteer Coordinator):
1. I want to work for a developing non-profit that supports children around the world on a volunteer. I had changed careers and used to be a teacher and wanted that fulfillment again. I was searching online for places in New York City and found a post on VolunteerMatch. It said that Maya’s Hope is dedicated to improving the lives of orphaned, special needs, and disenfranchised children on a global scale. I was looking to be active with an organization and to build important bonds as the organization developed and I found it. I sent an email and had a phone call with Maya herself. I remember thinking – I’m being interviewed by the president of Maya’s Hope for a volunteer position, SHE’s Maya! And then I found out the special needs orphans are from Ukraine, which leads to reason number 2.
2. I have a special bond with Ukraine. I lived there for over a year while serving in the Peace Corps. It was the best time of my life- I was doing what I felt like I was supposed to be doing. I organized summer camps for children living with HIV (initially started by a past group of AMAZING volunteers). I wrote grants to build health units at a local school where I was living in the rural South East. I started monthly trips to hospitals and community centers to teach leadership to underprivileged children. I was teaching full time and have a tremendous impact on the community and with the children. I was having an amazing time until the political crises hit and protests swarmed the country. It was no longer safe to be there and my group was finally evacuated in early 2014. A lot of my projects were put on hold and I still haven’t been able to return. Interesting enough, Maya’s Hope’s orphans live near where I lived and I have even been to the asylums they will end up at if they are not adopted. They need to be adopted before they end up there. I’m motivated by my love for Ukraine but also because I know the conditions in which they live.
3. The third most important reason I volunteer with Maya’s Hope is Maya. She is an inspiration and I truly love her for what she does. She is incredibly charismatic; a certified hustler who works day and night to run her charity. She is tough but loving and someday could make the worlds best mother. I mean, she takes care of hundreds of the most hard-lived children in the world and she does it with grace and positivity. She draws in amazing sponsors and incredible volunteers. I’ve learned a lot about myself by watching her work- mostly about the kind of person I want to be. That sounds sappy- Maya, you’re turning me into a sap! Stop it!
4. The Maya’s Hope Junior Board. I started it at the end of 2015 after pulling together an impressive group of interested volunteers. It’s a lot of work but I think that the combined efforts of a small group of people can be a real game-changer for an organization. We’re starting to spearhead fundraising events and hope to start having a dramatic impact on how much funds Maya’s Hope raises every year to accomplish it’s mission. Our next event is Karaoke for a Cause which will take place February 23rd from 6-9 at Pulse Karaoke. Tickets are just $15, $25 at the door. There will be drink specials, items to auction, lots of talented and less talented singers, and beautiful single people everywhere.
5. New York City is probably the 5th reason I volunteer with Maya’s Hope. I refuse to let the big city affect my character and personality. I come from the Chicago suburbs and grew up in a great community that was very supportive and friendly. New York is different. It’s busy. It’s dark sometimes. It’s tough. Seriously, its exactly where the going get tough and the tough get going. And while that might demonstrate (rather dramatically) the courage and angst of New Yorkers, there is also a disconnect from being human. As we toughen up, we lose these connections to each other. A lot of people lose interest in volunteer or charity work (not everyone!), just walk down the street and see how many people don’t even acknowledge the cold, hungry people begging for change. I can’t tell you how many people let New York City do that to themselves. As a recruiter, I know that the people mostly looking for volunteer work have lived here less than 6 months. It’s hard. Maya’s Hope allows me to push back and continue being who I always have been and meet great people who inspire me everyday.