2014-3-20 Maggie Doyne, humanitarian
By Joe Weston
Morristown – This Morris County girl’s humanitarian journey started when she was 19 and resolved to change the life of one dirt-poor child she had met in Nepal. What followed is an incredible story.
Fast forwarding to when she was only 23, Maggie Doyne was raising 200 Nepali children who had been orphaned and diseased as a result of a civil war in Northeast India. And at that tender age, she personally funded and built a home and school (made mostly from bamboo) for the village where she had started her journey by helping that first child.
Doyne is now 27, and the organization she created (you may want to check out her website, www.blinknow.org.) feeds more than 350 children a day and employs over 40 Nepali employees. The project is now locally self-sustained. It includes a medical needs program and a local women’s support/training program.
Doyne confirmed just on March 19 that she is in the process of building a high school there that is costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
This past February, Doyne was honored by the nonprofit group Wisdom in Action with
The Unsung Heroes of Compassion Award, presented by The Dalai Lama.
Although it is nice to be recognized, Doyne will tell you her real reward is being with her kids that live and study at The Children’s Home and School of Kopila Valley, Nepal.
The beautiful Himalayan Village is Maggie Doyne’s home, “my little slice of heaven, my little paradise.”
A successful spin-off program resulting from Doyne’s humanitarianism is the Morristown-based Kopila Fellow Program. It was started to replicate what Doyne did when she graduated from High School—take a year off before attending college to volunteer in a part of the world that desperately needs help.
Doyne spoke about the program just recently on March 19. “Each year, we have about 200 applicants and we take 5 or 6 of them back with us to Kopila Valley, Nepal.” But this year, Doyne said, “a lot of people applied who were professionals. We had all kinds of people from all walks of life.”
Doyne said “it’s awesome, because this is exactly what we need—teachers, nurses, musicians, artists, etc. We need to have a variety of professionals to grow,” she said.
“I’m a big proponent of gap years,” Doyne said. (A gap year is when a student waits a year after High School before attending the college they decided to attend, and then uses that time to travel and hopefully volunteer.)
Doyne spoke about her supportive parents and the role they played in forming her mindset. “We did a lot of camping and I learned how to rough it. They also taught us to dream big.”
She also suggested that her journey has not always been smooth. “It’s not easy to live 8,000 miles away,” she said.
Doyne acknowledges the tremendous base of local support she has enjoyed. School children and everyone from 5 year olds to senior citizens have been actively involved from the beginning in raising funds for Doyne’s projects in Nepal. “Teenagers have run marathons and there has been everything from cupcakes sales to dance parties to dinners,” Doyne said. “When someone donates a back pack, they actually can see the child (in a photo) who wears it.” Doyne also said the office space that her Blink Now Foundation uses in Morristown is donated, and volunteers are recruited to work there.
Doyne’s story to change these children’s lives started when she was only 19 and literally owned nothing more that the personal belongings in her back pack.
In her travels back in 2006, Doyne had come across refugees from Northeastern India, where there had been a civil war. They were living “under plastic with no water.”
Doyne has conveyed her thoughts at the time, which was that every child deserves a home, a safe place to live, medical care, and a school to attend. She has said in past interviews that she won’t stop until every child does.
Her decision to help began the day she locked eyes with her first project, a 7 year old girl named Hema. “I looked at her and saw every piece of myself in her,” Doyne remembers. The child she had met was only one of 80 million in the world that were orphaned, starving, uneducated, and forced to work to help support their family, Doyne has said. It turned out to be a defining moment in her Doyne’s life.
“I grew up with a trampoline in my back yard and played on the soccer field and was going to my first dance at her age,” Doyne has said when revealing her thoughts. At that point, she had asked herself the most important question, which was “Is there something I can do to change the life of just one child?” After making inquiries, Doyne had found that she could enter the child, whose name was Hema, into a school for only $7. Doyne paid the meager amount to school the child. She followed Hema’s progress and watched her thrive. After seeing this, she had asked herself the next question: “If I am able to do this for one child, what about 5 or 10?”
Her desire to help had become “addictive.” She found a piece of land that cost $5,000. Coincidentally, she had $5,000 in personal savings from babysitting and other odd jobs back at home in the U.S. She called her parents back home in the U.S. and asked them to wire it so she could buy the property. She bought the property not knowing where the next dollar was coming from to develop it.
So, Doyne returned to her parent’s home to Mendham before she was even 20 years old to raise money for her new commitment to the children she had met in Nepal. “I’ll just babysit again,” she recently said on March 19, re-telling her story. But after she shared her dreams, the local newspapers in the Morris County area printed it, and donations started trickling in.
Her first big break occurred when Cosmopolitan magazine awarded her with a $20,000 prize for her humanitarian efforts. Doyne had an audience laughing in 2010 when she described how the magazine representative explained the strings attached. “We are going to whisk you away to NYC for a Maybelline makeover.”
Doyne told of her experience at the hair dresser salon during that same speech . “She was astounded to find I had lice in my hair.” Doyne appreciated the make over, but added “I wouldn’t let them dye my hair chocolate brown.”
The next big development for Doyne’s dream was huge—she received a grant from DoSomething.org for $100,000 towards her dream for building a school for her kids.
“The first thing I did with the money was take the kids for elephant rides,” she recalled in that speech which can be watched on her website. Then, she began the work of building a school for 200 kids. It was made out of locally harvested bamboo, clay, stone, and topped with a tin roof.
Doyne told of how she had prepared for the school’s opening by speaking to psychologists, who all said that the best thing you can do for a child is to let them express themselves through art and acting. “So, we did a big show on stage and everything was narrated by puppets.”
Doyne has used her experience to inspire others to be the best that they can be. “We have talents and we have gifts. This just happens to be mine, and I’m really lucky,” she in that 2010 speech.
Doyne had been quick to admit her “can do” attitude came from the naïveté of youth. “If we all have that attitude that we could do anything, that we could be anything; then we could follow the dreams in our heart.”