My Barefoot Speech

775656_684644504887703_337509299_oI took off my high heels, stood barefoot on a chair, and delivered my speech while holding a BidTec iPad at the Sinclair- Fletcher Mansion on 5th Avenue.

Here’s what I prepared:

How many of you feel anxiety?

Are you anxious at work? Are you anxious about fitting in?  Are you anxious that you’re not earning enough? Anxious that you’re not wearing the right dress tonight?

Do you even look at twitter and feel anxiety?  You’re not skinny enough, you’re getting fatter, older?

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Cooper Union
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This past week, I went to two lectures by Alain de Botton. He’s one of my favorite writers and is a modern day philosopher. I’ll try not to bore you.

But what he started off with is how much anxiety we feel now, more than ever. We feel worthless and insignificant.  And I think that this is something that can apply to anybody in this room.

The thing about anxiety is that it’s something we create ourselves. Society, technology, our own pressures, our ideas of success. Facebook has made you see pictures of people you went to high school with who are more successful than you are, and somehow, you feel just a smidge anxious. Am I wrong?

But what is this anxiety? What are these fears that we face?  Is this a NYC thing or a global problem?  Are we just becoming anxious people?  Is anyone checking their phone right now?

This weekend, I was filled with so much anxiety. I was so nervous about this event to the point, I could not function. I could not think straight.  I had so many things to worry about that I felt myself shutting down.


And then I got a Facebook message Saturday night. Ruslan died.

All the preparations, everything that was weighing on my mind, seemed to scatter when I realized my problems are not real. The kids we help have REAL problems.

And it brought me back to why I started Maya’s Hope.  It was to help children, who need someone to fight for them, to protect them, to help give them a better life, it was to love these kids.

These children did not choose to be sick, born with deformities, choose to be poor. None of them had this choice, just like you didn’t get to choose who your parents are. These children were rejected by their parents.

We live in a society now where  we have anti-bullying campaigns, we are becoming more aware of the fact that we’re all different, but we’re special in our own ways. But these kids we help don’t have these campaigns defending them.  Instead, they are locked away in an institution far away from the public.  These children don’t think about tomorrow.  They live each day, they smile, they try to survive in their own worlds in their heads.  For some of these children, they honest to God don’t understand what it feels to be loved.


But there’s a bright side to all of this… you see, since my first visit, we started hiring caregivers.  And they have taken good care of some of the children.  We recently hired a massage therapist to give children regular massages. These are children who are bedridden.  In fact, we saved a child’s life and funded his surgeries. We now fund his caregiver.  His name is Igor.

I don’t believe in spewing statistics. The reason is, these kids are NOT statistics.  They are unique individuals who are funny, whose smiles warm the coldest of hearts.  I look at these children and think, what if that could happen to my own child?

Simply put, what if this happened to you?

1375649_10202245337276376_1738401398_nSadly, we lost Ruslan last week.  I can tell you about him. He loves to be held. Most kids would rather run off and play, he just wants you to hold him on your lap. If you try to get up, he will beg you to hold him. He had the softest cheeks, he looked like an angel. He also had a really sweet laugh.  Ruslan also loved that I spoke to him, even though he didn’t understand me.  He was also blind from birth. He was 14 years old, but looked no bigger than 8 year old.


I know that my anxiety from living in NYC probably won’t go away. Anxiety is part of our culture. We’re a city of overachievers, constantly connected to the world through our phones.  But what I can say is that if we can channel that energy that makes us feel so anxious into helping others who have real problems, the world would indeed be a better place.

Here is the actual video:


With Hope, Anything is Possible.

Maya Rowencak



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