My wife and I first met Tomi Ward when we were considering adoption a few years ago. Ultimately that plan didn’t end up moving forward, but we did gain a friendship with Tomi and her family from the pursuit. We’ve come to know Tomi as a devoted mother and tireless worker for the nonprofit that she founded in 2009, MAYA Organization.
Like many organizations that started small, the mission of the work that Tomi and her coworkers do at MAYA has changed over the years. Originally, they focused on adoption and the needs of mothers who were considering placing a child for adoption. While MAYA is still a full-service adoption agency, that mission has grown as they discovered new needs in the community.
MAYA still focuses primarily on women and babies, but now their stated mission covers a bit more. They seek to empower women to break the cycle of generational trauma by fostering the optimal physical and mental development of their children. It’s a vision that sees holistic health as beginning in the womb and a belief that if women are supported through pregnancy and during that crucial first year of their child’s life, there is a much greater chance that both mother and baby will flourish going forward.
To do this, MAYA employs a number of professional counselors who operate in individual and group settings. The counselors who work with individuals are trained in a variety of specializations and types of therapy. The group classes focus on prenatal health and parenting instruction. Moms who attend classes receive “MAYA Money”, which they can use to purchase baby clothes, diapers, car seats and other necessary accessories. The intention of offering this incentive is to do all MAYA can to equip new Moms to care for their new children.
MAYA has offices located on the Northside and in Swissvale, and recently started offering classes to Pittsburgh area refugee and immigrant communities. They currently offer classes in Spanish, Nepali, and Swahili to women who might otherwise feel isolated and unsure of how to properly care for their new child as they acclimate to a new nation and culture.
Beyond this, MAYA has some access to work with women in the Hope Unit of the Allegheny County Jail thanks to a recent grant that they received. A shockingly large percentage of incarcerated women have experienced trauma and never had access to mental health counseling. MAYA hopes to play a positive role in the rehabilitation of these women as they work through a wide variety of issues that may have fostered an environment where bad decisions ultimately led to incarceration.
Even with all of this, MAYA Organization is still a full-service adoption agency; providing help to both women considering adoption and families who would like to adopt. They are prepared to offer guidance on “where do I start” all the way to counseling that might be necessary for all parties once an adoption is finalized (and everything in between).
How You Can Help
MAYA’s greatest needs at the moment are financial. The current state budget wrangling has left MAYA (and hundreds of other Pennsylvania organizations) unsure of how to plan for the short and long-term. If you’d consider donating, they are in the midst of a campaign that will match your giving.
Additionally, MAYA’s mission would benefit from spreading the word about what they do. They exist to help women and families heal. If you know of anyone who might benefit from their services, please point them in the right direction. They will receive professional, compassionate care.
For more information including how to contact, give to, or learn more about MAYA, please visit their website and reach out directly.