Maggie Doyne on Bringing Love and Education to 500 Kids in Nepal
Maggie Doyne is surrounded by beauty every single day. The 33-year-old is the CEO and Co-Founder of BlinkNow, a non-profit that operates a children’s home, health center, women’s center and school for over 500 students in Surkhet, Nepal. Beauty is one of Maggie’s daily motivations. “Beauty is what it feels like when a child learns to read, or gets the food and care they deserve, or laughs and hugs her sister or brother,” she says. “Drink up that beauty wherever you find it and you can’t go wrong.”
Maggie uses her non-profit to unearth this kind of beauty and bring direct help to those who are not empowered to help themselves. But there’s a deeper connection: Maggie considers herself a mother to all the 50+ residents of the children’s home (as well as her biological daughter). We chatted with Maggie about how she started BlinkNow to empower Nepalese youth, a future documentary about her efforts and what her daily life entails as a mother to so many.
How did you dream up BlinkNow?
After I graduated from high school, I realized that I wasn’t ready to go to college. So instead of heading off for my freshman year, I took a gap year to see some of the world. I was volunteering at a clinic in India when I learned about the humanitarian crisis following the civil war in Nepal. Along with a friend from Nepal, I traveled to the country and was shocked by what I saw there — especially the way poverty forced children to work and prevented them from getting the education they deserved. I resolved to help support one remarkable child I met there by paying for her tuition and books — and everything grew from there. Along with my Co-Founder, Top Malla, I bought the land that would become the Kopila Valley Children’s Home, then the Kopila Valley School.
How did you end up creating the school?
My co-founder and I decided to create a school because we wanted to offer a tuition-free education to the most vulnerable children in our region of Nepal and we really believe in the power of a high-quality education. We wanted to build a place for students to come feel safe and loved. Our school provides the uniforms, books, lunches and snacks, health services and caring teachers. All the students need to do is show up.
What did it feel like when you helped a child for the first time?
As soon as the first child I worked with, Anjali, was able to enroll in school, I had two distinct thoughts: I was proud of what I’d been able to do, and I understood that if I could do more, I had to do more.
What’s a day in your life like?
A typical day at Kopila Valley is pretty chaotic, but [it’s] filled with so much love. I work with an incredible Co-Founder, and we have an amazing team of Nepali “aunties,” “uncles” and caregivers who help us take care of the kids. When I wake up, I check on the children and help prepare them for the day — making sure teeth are brushed, homework is completed, beds are made and uniforms are tidy. After breakfast, I’m off to work. I am usually home in time for dinner and a daily family meeting we call “satsung.” After that, it’s a bedtime story, homework or chatting with the kids about their days.
What is the best part and hardest part about having so many kids!?
The wonderful thing about being surrounded by so many kids is that it’s impossible to be lonely. There’s always someone to cook with, have a dance party with, play soccer with or just talk to. The hardest part about having so many kids is that it can be difficult to find quiet time and have a moment to myself.
How has the village been impacted by your school, children’s home and women’s center?
Our local community has always played a large role in our organization. From the beginning, we worked closely with the local government to develop our children’s home and school. After opening our new green campus, we have also provided community events for residents in the neighborhood. We had a weekly community yoga program that was very successful.
Can you tell us a little about the women’s center?
The Kopila Valley Women’s Center serves at-risk and vulnerable women in our community and provides them with vocational and empowerment training. We opened up a women’s center in 2013 because we believe that investing in women and girls creates healthier families and more prosperous communities.
It sounds like you don’t have a lot of free time. When you get some, what do you like to do?
Watch documentaries with my husband, play soccer with the kiddos. I’m always down for a dance party in the kitchen or to watch the sunset from the rooftop of our home in Nepal surrounded by all of my children.
We hear there is a documentary in the works about Kopila. What can you tell us?
My husband is a documentary filmmaker. He’s been capturing snippets of our lives for the past few years. It’s being edited and put together into a documentary called Love Letters for My Children and it tells the story of our family: everything from building the school, to a day in the life, to the children getting older, to having our first biological daughter, Ruby. It will probably come out in 2021.
What’s one good place you’ve visited and loved?
I love walking the streets of Kathmandu in the older markets and temples around the city. Also, the Himalayas. There’s nothing like a Himalayan sunrise.
What’s one good way you practice self-care?
Honestly, when I’m in Nepal, hot showers are the biggest treat of the week. You have to time it just right and wait for a sunny day to get the solar water heater going. I always feel like a million bucks after.