Maggie Doyne came into my life through a casual email from my life coach. The message read, “Don’t you wish all our daughters grew up like this?” and a link to her blog. I quickly tucked in and found myself entrenched in her stories for hours. She is an old soul in a young body, filled with wisdom beyond her years. Personally I think she’s a philosopher reincarnated.
At just the tender age of 19, Maggie founded Kopila Valley Children’s Home in Nepal. It is home to innocent victims orphaned by years of human rights violations and war. Using her own babysitting money, she purchased the land, organized the contractors, and build the home entirely from the ground up. Through her work, Maggie has given shelter to 24 kids, sent 60 others to school, and assisted in the placement of over 700 orphans in the region.
It all started when Maggie took off to see the world after high school. While trekking through the Himalayas in war-torn Nepal she met hundreds of children orphaned and homeless. Falling in love with their big smiles and bright eyes, she was stricken by what little they survived on. She flew back to the States and babysat kids, plants, animals (you name it!) and saved each cent with a vision of building them a home.
“Sometimes making someone’s dream come true is a “yes” away. Thank you, Do Something, for being my ‘yes’ tonight!”
Maggie’s brave adventure started with a “yes” from her parents years ago which created a chain reaction, eventually evolving into a career of social entrepreneurship at just 22-years-old. Today Maggie is tackling human rights issues in the region, improving the lives of children affected by violence, child labor, sex trafficking, and poverty.
Maggie’s story reflects two of my favorite theories. First is that each of us have everything we need to make a difference (Maggie had ambition and $5000 in savings). Second, if we give back the universe will continue to provide us with abundance (congrats on the $100K, Maggie!). This makes Kopila Valley Children’s Home one of my favorite charities. If you like what you read, be Maggie’s “yes” and consider a donation. There are a lot of ways you can help.
Friends, please welcome the amazing and insightful Maggie Doyne….
What inspired you to build Kopila Valley Children’s Home? How has it affected your life?
It’s a really long story that can be hard to condense in a few words. My life took a 360 degree turn when I was just about to graduate from high school. I had a bit of a seventeen year old crisis. Who am I?… What should I do with my life?… That sort of thing. I had spent my middle school and high school obsessed with trying to be perfect at everything. Getting the perfect grades, trying to be a star athlete, the editor of my yearbook, a good friend, daughter, and sister, social light. I took on more than I could handle and with the intention of getting into a really good college and getting on the fast track. It turned out I wasn’t perfect at any of those things and trying to be perfect at all of them took a toll on every part of who I was. I could see my life going in a direction I didn’t want it too.
I could see myself going straight to college and falling deeper into this dark hole of doing what I was supposed to do, what everyone expected but not what was really in my heart. I’d lost my passion to learn. Thanks to the support of my parents I was lucky see this and recognize it in myself at a young age. I suddenly postponed my plans for college and signed up for a gap year program to backpack all around different of the world. After taking an internship in an orphanage in India, I began to meet young Nepali refugee children and became curious as to where they were coming from and why. I ended up going on a backpacking trip with a young Nepli refugee girl in search of her relatives in the remote Himalyan mountains of Nepal where I met hundreds of children in need of a home. I decided right then and there to build one for them.
You write quite endearing letters to the children in your home on your blog. What have you learned the most from them?
They’ve taught me the value of human life and the importance of childhood. I’ve learned alot about the healing process. They are the true definition of resilience. They make me laugh and they’ve brought so much joy and meaning to my life. We’ve really become a family over the past few years.
What was your biggest challenge when building the Kopila Valley Children’s Home?
During the early phases of construction and settling in with the community, I hadn’t learned a lot of the language. Losing your ability to communicate leaves you feeling pretty vulnerable. Sometimes I’d have an English speaking friend come and translate and other times I was completely on my own, with masons, laborers, and villagers that I couldn’t fully communicate with. The first few months were hard but I got through it. Looking back being in that vulnerable position of not knowing/understanding (what people around me were saying), and desperately wanting to know/understand, empowered me to learn more quickly and in a more meaningful and deep manner. I took Spanish for 7 years in middle school and high school and still can’t string a sentence together but Nepali came pretty easily to me. You can’t get by here without being able to speak the language and I was almost forced to learn to speak. I realize now that if I was never challenged, if I had never felt frustrated about not being able to communicate, I would have never learned.
Your website states that your mission is ‚ÄúTo create a self-sustainable living community for destitute children that provides their most basic needs and also contributes to post-war recovery and peace in the nation of Nepal.‚Äù This seems like an overwhelming challenge. How do you stay focused with such a large task?
One of my favorite quotes of all time is this.
If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.
chinese philospher – lao-tse – 6th century bce
I focus every day the sanctity of our home and making sure that my children feel safe and loved. I’ve noticed that the peace in our home and the joy of our children often radiates to our neighbors and our village, the city we live in and people who come to visit from other countries in the world.
Children are the future. When our world’s children are educated, when they’re given childhoods, and love and a home, and enough food to eat, they grow up to share that with others and create peaceful homes of their own. The model for our home works because it is just that; a home with family living in it who love each other very very much. When I feel overwhelmed with the big picture of the world or the political situation in Nepal, or the extreme poverty I see around me I stop and try to focus on the smaller things that I know are in my control. Bathing my children, trimming their fingernails, cooking a meal together, and reading a bed time story. Then my heart feels peaceful again and then I can keep going.
Kopila Valley Children’s Home currently has 28 children and is continually growing. Who else has the home helped besides the children?
We had over 250 members from the local community employed to build the home. Six or so women stayed on with us as our permanent staff. We’ve been able to enroll almost 100 children into school.
You recently won $100,000 from The Do Something Awards. How do you intend to use this well deserved prize?
We are purchasing a larger plot of land and building our very own school. I’m striving to make it one of the best most innovative schools in Nepal providing quality education to poor children who normally wouldn’t have a chance to go to school and receive an education. Part of the school will also be a community center with a medical clinic, vocational training, art and music open to the children in and around our village.
You seem to be blessed with an entrepreneurial mind – how did you find yourself on this path?
Well I give a lot of the props to my amazing parents who, since I was a little girl have always, always encouraged my heart, and told me
that I could do anything I put my mind to and believed in me.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into when all of this startedto be very honest. I was 19 years old and had this “nothing can stop me” mindset. If I saw it in my mind, I knew I could make it happen. I had a dream of building this home for homeless and orphaned children. I could see it, in my mind before I even had a dollar in the bank account and the funds to build it, before I even knew what a non-profit was. I could see the children playing on the swings and being tucked into bed at night, and eating meals and singing songs together. I visualized what I wanted my life and the lives of my children too look like. I took things a step at a time, a day at a time. When I didn’t know the answers I found someone who did and asked them. I learned to share my dream, vision, and what was in my heart with others. Before I knew it, I was supported and embraced by people from my close-knit community in Mendham, NJ where I’m from and then people from all over the world who cared as well.
Who and what inspires you?
The children I live with, the men and women I have the pleasure of working with here in Nepal, my neighbors and friends, my parents, my two sisters Kate and Libby, Mary Oliver, Maya Angelou, my friend Megan Shull, The Dalai Lama, art, music, writing, and being outside.
What would be your advice for someone who wants to make their dream a reality?
The hardest step to take is to begin. You just have to take the dive. For young people who want to start a project for social good in the world. Two words. Do. Something. Go to dosomething.org. They’ve written up a whole guide there on how to get started with a project and they just awarded me $100,000 to fund my next project and continue onwards with my dream.
What‚Äôs your motto?
One of my favorite new saying that I’ve heard being used a lot lately is GLOBAL COMMUNITY! The world is changing. We’re not isolated from each other any more like we used to be, mainly because of advancements in technology and transportation. We are one. We’re all the same sharing this great big earth together and we all have a responsibility to it as global citizens of this earth and to borrow from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
If you could meet anyone in the world dead or alive who would it be and what would say to them?
I’d be thrilled to spend some time with Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, the pulitzer prize winning journalist Nicholas Kristof, and his wife (and pulitzer prize winner too), Sheryl WuDunn. I am sooo excited to get my hands on their new book Half the Sky, and am inspired by the work all three of them do but geesh there are so many amazing people in the world, I think we can learn something from anyone, from simple Nepali farmers, to pulitzer prize winning journalists, everyone has something to share.
What next do you have planned?
If I have learned one thing as of late it’s to not get too ahead of things, so yes, on the short term I have a list a mile long which includes four very active and playful four year olds, and a houseful of 26 hearts who need tending. That said, I have some big dreams sketched out that include a school for my kids and our community here in Surkhet, as well as continuing to be a sustainable and positive member of this community. I believe in the power of all of us working together to change the world for the better. One of my dreams is to create safe homes and communities for children all over the world in need of refuge. My heart is full and the future is exciting. There is so much, still, to do.