By Ainsley Layland
For the past four years Chatham Education Foundation has been inviting speakers to the district to shine light for students, parents and the community on attributes that are sometimes overlooked in academia. These qualities however, still contribute to fulfilment and richness in life in ways that aren’t always measured conventionally.
The featured speaker at Chatham High School on Wed., Nov. 30 was Mendham native, Maggie Doyne.
In 2015 Doyne was awarded the CNN Heroes Award for her work educating children and building up a community in Nepal. During her time there she has built a children’s home, women’s center, and founded the Kopila Valley School where the students are often the first in their family to be educated. She is the adoptive mother of 50 children and recently dropped her oldest daughter off at college, where, Doyne said there were a lot of tears.
She recently relocated her ‘home base’ to Chatham but grew up in Mendham and attended Mendham High School. At 18 years-old she was on track to attend college following graduation but woke up one morning with a change of heart that would affect the course of her life.
“I’ll never forget [that] moment, I walked downstairs and I had pulled an all-nighter, and I just had this feeling and this knowing in my gut that if I went to college it would be for all the wrong reasons. I just felt like I needed to see more and do more,” Doyne said at the event Wednesday night. “I had been so focused on these goals and trying to build this person that I didn’t even know anymore who I was on the inside.”
Sitting in her biology class, Doyne heard her name called out over the loudspeaker. She reported to the guidance office for a spontaneous meeting with her counselor who was concerned about her decision to put off college for a year.
“My guidance counselor looked me in the eye and she said, ‘You’re making the biggest mistake of your entire life.’ And this was the biggest mistake,” Doyne said. “All of us fall into this trap. We get stuck in the fear and the not knowing of what’s in front of us and thinking that we have to be this person, and do certain things, and become this person I’m meant to be. But that’s not always what brings joy and happiness and meaning. Sometimes the biggest mistake of your entire life could be the step that takes you to where you are meant to be.”
Her message to the audience was less about her break from the expectations of society and more about the importance of being true to oneself. Her decision to travel before going to college ultimately lead her to what she says is her life’s calling.
“I have a nice little home base for me and the kids [here in Chatham] when they’re here on student exchange programs and while I’m here and there,” Doyne said. “I’ve never felt more safe, more welcome, or more loved. We’re very, very lucky to live here.”