American philanthropist Maggie Doyne is proof unconditional love really can effect change in our world. With the help of locals, as well as people from all over the world, she has changed the lives of hundreds of impoverished women and children in Surkhet, Nepal by opening the Kopila Valley School and Children’s Home. In addition to helping them feel empowered with quality education, she is making them feel sheltered and loved.
Other than providing a safe, clean, stable home to her 49 adopted children, Maggie, who is from Mendham, New Jersey, helped build the bamboo-based school attended by 350 children from Surkhet and surrounding areas. Many of the students are the first in their families to ever attend school, empowering them to make something of themselves and have the skills to continue her mission of ending ongoing cycles of poverty and violence. By opening the school in 2010, Maggie has been able to send her older students to continue their education in places like Amsterdam, Italy and New York City.
Passionate and dedicated, Maggie has also been making a big difference by offering the community nutritious meals, a health clinic, a women’s community centre and a safe house called Big Sisters’ Home for 10 of the most at-risk girls female students. Plus, there’s a Future’s Program for graduates and construction is under way for a brand new school designed with sustainable building practices, which is surrounded by a vocational farm. Everything is funded and managed by The BlinkNow Foundation, the grassroots non-profit organisation the 31-year-old set up, which promotes sustainability and self-reliance in the Surkhet community.
Maggie’s tireless compassion and incredible strength have earned her some impressive accolades, including CNN Hero of the Year 2015 and being honoured by the Dalai Lama as an Unsung Hero of Compassion. The selfless woman has also been named as “Glamour” Magazine's Woman of the Year, while Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof advocated her in a a cover story for “The New York Times” Magazine.
She has also appeared in publications like “Time” and “The Guardian,” and her groundbreaking work was used as an example at the Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy. Maggie, who believes “in the blink of an eye we can all make a difference,” has also been named one of the 30 most influential people under 30. Although her persistence has paid off, the past 10 years haven’t been been easy, with her darkest hour being the loss of her youngest child, Ravi. Motherless and suffering from malnutrition, the boy was only two months old when she received him in her home.
The philanthropist’s life-changing journey began when she was 18 and decided to go backpacking around the world during her gap year between high school and college. While trekking through the Himalayas, Maggie was astounded and overwhelmed to witness firsthand how people, especially children, were living as she walked along the dirt roads of Nepal’s most poverty-stricken villages. She wanted to take action. Starting with the tenet of “forget the 80 million, start with one," she focused on a little seven-year-old girl called Hema, who was helping her family make ends meet by breaking stones in a dry riverbed and selling them for a few dollars.
Maggie turned her life around by paying for her tuition, uniform, and books, and then started helping more and more children. After taking her life’s savings of $5,000, which she had earned babysitting, she bought a piece of land, where the children’s home for orphaned and at-risk children was eventually built and opened in 2008. The help of the local Nepalese community, led by BlinkNow Co-Founder Top Bahadur Malla, and some other international donations helped make it possible. The school came next, and as the foundation’s website says, “more ideas and inspirations are always on the horizon.”