Maggie Doyne Makes a Difference
07 Dec 2010
Having established a home and school for children in Nepal, 24 year-old American, Maggie Doyne is now encouraging other young people to make a positive difference in the world
Attention: This article has been imported from our old websiteWhile we've taken every precaution to ensure that the content of this article remains intact, it may contain errors.
Having established a home and school for children in Nepal, 24 year-old American, Maggie Doyne is now encouraging other young people to find their own way to make a positive difference in the world
At 19, Maggie Doyne set off travelling on a gap year before starting higher education. “To say I was obsessed with getting into the perfect college would be, well, an understatement,” she recalls, yet she would not return to walk through those university gates. While volunteering on an internship programme in north-east India, she discovered a more urgent calling.
Working with Nepalese refugee children who had fled across the border during the Maoist insurgency, she wondered how bad a situation they must have been running from. Before long, she found herself in Nepal looking into the eyes of a little girl, whose job everyday as a child porter, for a dollar-a-day wage, was to go back and forth carrying 60kg bags of goods from a bus park into the villages.
Maggie’s whole world collapsed in a second as the reality of the suffering of the world’s 80 million orphaned children hit home. “I looked at her and I saw every single piece of myself,” Maggie recalls, “and I was devastated… I thought, what have we done as a human family, that our children are living this way?”
Speaking with NGOs, government officials and local people, Maggie learned that Nepal has 45,000 misplaced children: ex-child soldiers, orphans and young girls sold into sex-trafficking, all struggling to survive without a safe home, food, clothing or the chance to go to school. Maggie also discovered that in Nepal, education is not free. “That’s when I started to do the maths,” she says. “Admission fee: $5; uniform: $7 and books: $8. I decided that with very little effort, I could really make a difference.”
Maggie paid to put one girl into school and before long, one became five, which became ten… Then a vision formed in her mind; she was going to build a home for these children. Maggie put her plans for college on hold. Instead, she got on the telephone to her parents, asking them to transfer all her $5,000 savings from years of babysitting, and with this money she bought a small patch of land. Having run out of funds, she flew home in the spring of 2007. Before doing so however, she dug a foundation hole for the building.
After fundraising in her hometown, she returned to Nepal with $25,000. Within six months Maggie had built Kopila Valley Children’s Home in Surkhet, three hours north of the Indian border in mid-western Nepal. Here, a new family of 35 healthy and happy children now thrive.
Over 200 local Nepalese people took part in construction of the home, from masons to plumbers. Many local women, as well as orphaned children, helped to carry materials and work alongside the labourers, as did Maggie. “It became fun for all of us,” she remembers. “The kids and the whole village now takes ownership and feels really proud of what we built together. I wanted to be sure that it wasn’t about me — a foreigner coming in and telling these people what was best for them! I wanted to hear what the local people themselves saw as the needs in their community.”
Once built, it wasn’t long before Kopila was inundated with orphans. Fortunately, CosmoGirl magazine awarded Maggie a $20,000 prize, courtesy of Maybelline. It came as a surprise to Maggie, whose life in Nepal did not leave much opportunity to think about make-up, but she gratefully used the money to extend the home with second and third floors.
Maggie was also awarded $100,000 in 2009 by DoSomething.org — a leading organisation working with young people to create a culture of volunteerism and inspire ‘a generation of doers.’ With the prize money she was able to fulfil another dream: to build a new school.
Since opening in June 2010, the school has already secured a reputation for its success, and offers a creative learning approach, as well as training in practical skills, such as growing food, cooking and raising livestock — crucial in a country where the vast majority of people rely on subsistence farming. Made sustainably from bamboo, the building hosts over 200 children. They each receive health-care and basic medical treatment, as well as a meal — sometimes the only one they will eat that day.
Kopila has also set up their own Village Outreach Programme for other children who do not have the opportunity to go to school. “We can offer them scholarships, tutoring, and sometimes bicycles to get to school,” explains Maggie, “and we also improve schools in remote areas; making repairs and giving desks and benches.”
Maggie is now living in Nepal full-time with breaks in the US to fundraise and meet with her board of directors. As news of Kopila Valley has spread, she has also begun to speak publicly about her project. She created The BlinkNow Foundation as a separate entity to share her ideas and views with other young people.
“I believe that in the blink of an eye, we can all make a difference,” she says. “My hope is that my blog and the BlinkNow website will help keep young people connected with my story and the every day realities of the world.”
BlinkNow wants to promote work at the grassroots level in areas such as rural development, literacy and education, social justice, women’s empowerment and global sustainability. Maggie has created a guide to help others understand how to create their own organisation, on either a community or global level, with suggested reading material and special tips from her own experience.
“I have met some of the most amazing young people through my journey,” she says, “many of which have guided and supported me. After visiting schools, I’m now more certain than ever that young people do care! We really want to change things. Sometimes it’s just hard to know how to help and what to do.
“When telling my story it’s important for me to stress that this has just been my path. However, that change and service can come in different forms, even just in our daily interactions with each other.”
Maggie’s long-term dream is to create safe homes and communities for children all over the world in need of refuge. “I have come so far from that girl, with the backpack,” she says, “but now more than ever, I know that anything is possible. My heart is full and the future is exciting. There is so much still to do.“
Maggie Doyne with children from Kopila Valley. Photo: copyright Orr Niv
If you enjoyed this article, please consider making a donation
Donating helps us keep reporting on positive news