New Jersey Woman Maggie Doyne Left Her Life Of Privilege To Move To Nepal & Adopt 51 Children

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When we look at the news each day we see so many depressing stories that can leave us feeling disappointed and disillusioned with the world. In some cases, we are moved to the point of wanting to get involved in our communities or with an organization in order to make some positive change in the world. But there are very few people who would literally give up their entire life of privilege after seeing injustice and horror in order to ensure someone else has the chance to thrive. It’s  bold statement to make, but one we are willing to wager on. Except in the case of Maggie Doyne, that is.

At 18 years old she loaded up a backpack and traveled around the world, leaving her Mendham, New Jersey hometown far behind. She was on a gap year after graduating high school and ended up in India working for a refugee children’s home. There she met a man who was from Nepal, and after speaking to him about the struggles in his home country at the time, as well as meeting so many Nepalese children who would travel down through India away from a conflict zone, Maggie decided Nepal would be her next destination.

That was in 2006, a year when a 13 year civil war was coming to an end which left many people displaced, orphaned, diseased and in severe poverty. During her initial stay in Nepal, she met a 6 year old girl who was breaking stones to sell in order to make money. Maggie was moved by the plight of this little girl that she knew she had to help her somehow. She called her parents in the US, convinced them to transfer $5000 USD from her bank account which she had saved from babysitting jobs, bought a small piece of land and planned to build a school for local children.

Needless to say, Maggie never left Nepal, and over the past decade has done some incredible things for the children and families where she planted her roots. The Kopila Valley Children’s home today houses nearly 400 school children, and just over 50 kids who do not have any parents or family to take care of them. Maggie created a non-profit organization called BlinkNow where all donations received go toward helping a community of people who did not have the life they had before Maggie arrived.

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Aside from a school and living facility for orphaned children, there is also a health clinic and women’s center, all staffed by local Nepalese people. But it doesn’t end there. Instead of just allowing the children to live at the Kopila Valley facility, Maggie has adopted 51 children as her own because as she told Women in the World, she “hates” orphanages.

“A child in an orphanage is more likely to be abused or contract a deadly illness than outside, surviving on their own on the streets,” she said.

Instead, Maggie lives with the children, and helps them outside of school to ensure they have the opportunity to play sports, learn how to cook, and take part in meaningful community projects.

Maggie was just named as the CNN Hero Award recipient for 2015, and will no doubt use her $100,000 prize money to expand on what she is already doing at Kopila Valley. In a video piece talking about her unusual path in life, Maggie says there was no way she could ever predict at 29 years old she would be a mother to 51 children and making a huge difference in the life of nearly 400 more on a daily basis in a foreign country.

Having seen her adoptive country suffer through 2 devastating earthquakes earlier this year, it seems only fitting that she was given the CNN accolade. She now helps other people like her embark on similar ventures as she has successfully created a sustainable model allowing people in poverty-stricken rural areas in countries like Uganda, Sri Lanka and Rwanda to break the cycle. But she is adamant that the attention should not just be given to her.

“I’m proud of myself – I can’t not be. But what makes this special over the years is that this has been a community movement, it’s not a personal journey anymore about a girl who ends up in northeast India and then Nepal. It’s turned into a community that’s built itself out of poverty and a little oasis-haven of what I think the world could look like, even in violent, post-civil war, rural Nepal,” she said.

Now that she has a firsthand view of what it is like to be a mother watching a (larger than normal) group of kids grow up (eat your heart out Duggars!) she knows the long-lasting impact of choosing to invest in a child’s life from an early age, allowing them opportunities to feel loved, valuable and able to contribute to society.

“If there’s 100 million orphaned children in the world, there’s a consequence to that. If we’re raising children without having their most human basic needs and rights met, that translates ten and 20 years later to really serious economic instability, war, violence. Everything that we’re seeing now on the news – I guarantee you, every single one of those kids didn’t have enough love, or food, or an education,” she said.

Nepal is the world’s youngest Republic and after the civil war it took ten years for their constitution to be written. Change is incremental, but Maggie knows it is possible. Not to long ago they just held a federal election and named women’s rights champion Bidhya Devi Bhandari as their first female President. Yep, even Nepal has beaten the US to the post!

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These days Maggie is in the process of setting up a Blink Now location in the US and regularly makes trips back and forth between Nepal and her home country, which adds an incredible amount of perspective to what she is doing in Kopila Valley on a daily basis.

“I used to really struggle with it, like, it doesn’t make sense. I won the birth lottery, how are these little sisters of mine over in Nepal at risk without food or warm clothes? I’ve come to better terms with it because I have to go back and forth a lot, and I’ve realized that the only reason that makes sense that we were given all this – these rights that we have, the education we were given, which [for me] was really just a public school education, the safety net, the security and freedom to choose who I want to marry, when I want to marry and not be sold for money – the reason is that we have to give it back to others. I gave up trying to compare one world or the other world,” she said.

Her story and her work are no doubt impressive and life-changing. It’s easy to look from afar and see the difference one ordinary girl can make, then look at our own lives and feel like we are not doing enough. However, Maggie believes that in the current world we live in, today’s youth have the power to create the world we truly want to live in. We have innovation at our fingertips every day, and fueled with a passion to create change, there should be nothing stopping us from being the next international hero like Maggie Doyne.

Find out more about Maggie’s work by visiting the Blink Now website, and watching the video below:

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