It’s been a week since our Buffalo Girls Screening at the Mercedes Club and we’re still trying to catch up with thanking all of those who made it a success!

While muay thai has been a passion of mine for a few years now, when I came across Todd Kellstein’s documentary, all I thought was… people must see this.  It’s the story about two children who fight, simply to escape poverty, to help their families and to pay for their schooling. It is the story of hardship and triumph for girls who have such limited options in this world, but have options nonetheless.

When I told the Board that I wanted to feature a Muay Thai documentary as an event … they said “Maya, who on earth would watch a Muay Thai documentary?!”  (Boy did we prove them wrong!  It’s a little thing called… “dedication”!)

I had fallen in love with the story of these two girls, and stubborn Maya was on a mission to show it.


Pet from Buffalo Girls

I can’t deny it, but my heart went out to Pet.   She had a serious heart condition, and her father also had a terrible accident where he was bedridden, leaving him unable to work. Pet was even sent away to stay with her grandmother who called her a “boy.”  When I saw Pet laugh or smile, she truly radiated innocence and purity despite her situation in life.  She even shaved her head as an offering because she in fact was grateful to be alive.  This is a child who refuses to take her blessings for granted, especially her health.  Despite having a weak heart, she managed to run, train and fight… and most importantly, she never gave up even if she lost.  When she cried after her loss, I could feel how deep her sobs were.

You stop and realize…  she’s only 8 years old. It reminded me of the same sadness of losing a piano competition as a kid.  I just can’t imagine how it must felt for her to lose a fight, and also not earn any money for her family.


Stam from Buffalo Girls

Stam too was a happy girl who liked the money which kept driving her to fight and win.  She even said she just wanted an education. She built her own family’s home with the money from her winnings.  The responsibility of taking care of her family weighed on her tiny shoulders, and still, she smiles, sells fruit with her family, and continues to defeat her opponents with her fuschia painted cheeks. (Her mother’s idea of course.)

For anyone who saw this film, I hope you enjoyed it… It is shocking to many because as Westerners we cannot fathom the idea of watching children fight and risk their lives in a ring for a few dollars.  But the reality is… poverty sheds light on few options, and these girls were able to take advantage of it.


For the children we help in the Philippines and in Ukraine, I consider all of them fighters, just like Pet and Stam.  They fight loneliness, rejection, physical disabilities, malnourishment and some have endured psychological, physical and even sexual abuse.  Some of our cutie pies fight every single day to live, just like our Margarita in Ukraine who is in a crib and still cannot eat food, but takes her nutrition through a tube in her nose and smiles for the whole world on our YouTube Channel.

BU Michaela Joy Arabe 1

Michaela Joy, Maya’s Hope Superstar with her school supplies. She lives with her family in the slums near the river in the Philippines

This event allowed us to highlight Todd Kellstein’s fantastic documentary as well as the kids we help at Maya’s Hope.  We introduced many new people to our charity who may just fall in love with our cutie pies!


A Dedication

At Commit to Hope (November 2012), I dedicated that evening to a little boy named Zhenya who had just passed away… and sadly, I dedicated our event last Tuesday to Adriana Bernardo who passed away on May 30, 2013.   Maya’s Hope is a tribute to my own mother, so I couldn’t help but dedicate this special evening to another amazing mother who left her mark on the world.



Her daughter, Maribeth Mejia, made a generous donation of $1100 to Maya’s Hope in loving memory of her mom.


Maribeth wrote:

Years ago, I discovered that my Mom, Adriana Bernardo, had sponsored a young boy from Egypt.  She shared with me his photos and their correspondence and saw how happy it made her.  With this memory in mind, I thought that one of the best way to honor her is by asking family and friends to give to Maya’s Hope.  I followed in my Mom’s footsteps by sponsoring one of Maya’s cutie pies, Renz, a young boy from the town of Norzagaray, Philippines.  Maya has also been a friend for years now and I have complete trust in her organization.  I requested Maya’s Hope to equally share the total contribution to Princess from the Philippines and Margarita from Ukraine in honor of my Mom.



Pedro, Maribeth and Maya… had a special dinner and Maribeth presented her donation of $1100 as a surprise!

Special thanks to:

Jame and Leira Caceres

Ely and Babes Versoza

Genie Smilowitz

Peter Versoza

Carmen and Joven Toringan

Edgar and Gennet Gomez

Rodney and Mary Stanford

Ralph and Miledys

Ricardo and Helen Benito

Galit Ishay


We want to thank again the following people (because we just LOVE you to pieces!)


Todd Kellstein

… for making this awesome documentary

Lisa Ciampi

…for supporting Maya’s Hope and allowing us to have this event at the Mercedes Club

Kru Rob Rogan and Kru Beatrice Fiedorowicz

of Square Circle New York for their support and for bringing their entire gym to do a presentation

Cathal O’Brien

from The Cafe Grind for providing the catering for our VIPs.

Somporn Metchanun

from Kare Thai for donating drinks and desserts for our VIPs

David Mykel

partner at Muay Thai Fightclub for his support and friendship

Michael Meltzer

for being supportive and helping in every aspect, especially counting all the money and reporting it!


And the Volunteers!

Tisha Padilla especially for busting her tushy to help me for two weeks before the event!

This is in no particular order…

Jeanne Qiu, Ty Matsunaga, Hanson Tan, Nicole Trujillo, Nicole Alexeeva, Stanley Raymond, Beverley Xu, Levin Ng, Janeth Rosell, Bettina Huber, Melanie McLean, Richard Hart, Angelita Gonzalez, Hailey Myziuk, Lulu Daval-Santos, Krati Agrawal, Prin Sielski, Eli Carrington, Dave the Tech guy at the Mercedes Club, Kat Dudina, Parviz Iskenderov, Zaldy Patron,  and I’m sure I’m forgetting someone, but I wrote this, and I can edit it at anytime… so I can add anybody I forget!


Thank you for all who came, those who volunteer, and thank you for believing in Maya’s Hope!

With love,






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