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You may have heard of Maggie Doyne. A few years ago a video, A 23 Year Old Mother of 30, produced by The Do Lectures and featuring Maggie circulated around the Internet. Since that video a lot has changed in Maggie’s life. Most notably BlinkNow, the Nepal based organization she founded when she was just 19 years old has grown into a blue print that is being recognized across the globe as a standard for community empowerment that in turn builds sustainable futures for children.
BlinkNow’s mission is to provide an education and a loving, caring home for orphaned, impoverished, and at risk children. They also provide community outreach to reduce poverty, empower women, improve health, and encourage sustainability and social justice.
So, how does a 28-year-old woman from New Jersey end up changing the course for, at last count, 50 Nepali children who call her mom and the community in which they live? It started with a gap year right after high school and ended with a trek through the Himalayas and walking along the dirt roads of Nepal’s most poverty-stricken villages. It was on these desolate roads in these remote villages that Maggie’s world changed forever. Her gap year ceased to exist at that moment and her life truly began.
Recently RainbowKids had a chance to chat with Maggie and she has graciously offered to share some of her story with us.
Describe that moment when you first realized Nepal was where you were meant to be.
There was a dry river bed in a town in the foothills of the Himalayas I was travelling through where hundreds of children were breaking rocks for a living instead of going to school. It was overwhelming for me, just so wrong on so many levels. There was this one adorable little girl in a raggedy orange dress picking through the garbage. Her name was Hima and she looked up at me with her big brown eyes, smiled, and she said “Namaste Didi” (Hello big sister) I remember thinking “I can’t go back knowing what I know now and leave this little girl like this. She and I are no different and I’m going to do something about this.” It was in a rickety old phone booth with a connection going in and out but I knew it was the right decision. I called my parents and asked them to send me $5,000 (my life savings of babysitting money so I could buy a piece of land) which would be the future site of our children’s home. My poor parents but lucky for me they really listened and in the end said “yes.”
Fast forward ten years later and there’s not a single kid breaking stone on that river bed. Hima is one of 350 kids thriving in our school, her mom works in our women’s center, and I’m the mom to 50 beautiful children. I’ve learned so much, and grown so much but I often reflect back on that day and that one quick decision that changed my life forever. We can all create the world we want to live in, a world we’re proud of.
What has been your most rewarding moment?
For me it’s the mundane every day things that make me the proudest. Watching the kids form bonds with each other, take care of each other, and seeing the family we’ve created grow and blossom is extremely rewarding. I love to watch them all sitting and laughing around the breakfast table or singing a song, or divvying up popcorn on movie night and lay on the floor together cuddled under blankets. I love watching them on the soccer field, or up on stage at school performing in a dance competition or coming out of their shell and gaining confidence in the classroom. There’s this transformation that happens from the time they come in unhealthy, feeling scared, alone and not sure of who to trust, and then a moment where they really come into their own. It’s almost like magic.
What has been your most frustrating moment?
Recently suicide has surpassed childbirth and emerged as the number one killer of girls and women. There’s definitely an epidemic going on and I really struggle with the way women and girls are treated here and the cultural stigmas working against them. It’s so incredibly sad that a woman or girl could feel so hopeless that taking her own life seems like the easiest way out. We’re working on a plan with the local police and community leaders and devising a plan to keep women and girls safe and make sure they feel supported. We’ve created two counseling centers where women can report abuse or talk with a counselor about their struggles. We also started a women’s center where women can come together, receive skills training, human rights training, literacy, business 101, and parenting skills, and confidence building workshops.
What motivates you to keep going?
There’s so many problems and at times it can feel overwhelming but I also feel like the solutions can be quite simple. Like enrolling a child into school and teaching them how to read and write can change the trajectory of their life forever! That’s so incredibly hopeful to me and definitely makes me want to keep going.
Describe your support network. Family? Co-workers? Volunteers?
I have an amazing circle of people around me. Wonderful family and friends and an incredible team of staff, both in the U.S. in Nepal. All in all we’re a team of 100 people! We have a Nepali based board and a U.S. board, and I have an amazing co-director on the ground in Nepal along with 75 employees and the Kopila Fellows program brings in people from around the world to volunteer and help us on the ground. We’ve grown so much and it’s been incredible to watch us all unite for this cause and work together.
What can our RainbowKids family do to help you and your organization?
If you feel inspired to help our children, you can make a donation or start your own fundraiser on our website blinknow.org. There are lots of ways to get involved. You can also follow along on social media to share our story and raise awareness. I have a blog where I write about day to day life here and our social media pages have regular updates about life on the ground. Follow our website and BlinkNow on Instagram, facebook, twitter to learn more ways that you can help!
As a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a little girl the thought of growing up scared me. I remember wanting to stay a kid forever. I worked really hard in school, was a good student and was involved in sports, student council, but I feel had no idea what I wanted to be and feeling like I should have an answer always made me nervous. Part of the reason why I took a gap year to travel was to see the world and also go inwards to learn more about myself and what I wanted to do with my life. I feel really lucky to have gotten that time. It helped me find my path a lot younger than I would have otherwise.
Where do you see BlinkNow ten years from now?
We’re working on building a new permanent school and expanding capacity. This work is incredibly addicting and especially after watching the transformation of the children, we want to increase enrollment. We have anywhere from 600-800 applicants a year for just 25 spots. We recently bought a big piece of property where we’re currently under construction to build a high school, vocational center, as well as a permanent site for our middle school, elementary, and preschool. There’s also a huge cafeteria and lots of outdoor space for the kids to run around and play. We’re trying to build a long lasting, enduring, green school that serves as a model for others to learn from and hopefully help spread our work. Ten years from now I’d like our organization to be self-sustaining. Kids grow up so fast and as far as personal goals, I really just want to be the best mom I can be and raise my children to be confident, independent, and good future leaders.
If you could have one wish, what would it be?
I believe that cycles of poverty and violence will end when we make it more of a priority to care for our world’s children. My wish is that every child has their most basic needs and rights met; a safe home, loving family, clean water, warm clothing and enough food is what every child in the world deserves and I think as a human family we can all do better.
The Kopila Valley Children’s Home is solely funded by BlinkNow. Maggie and her 50 children live within the walls of this home. With the help of a team of loving aunties and uncles the children are being raised in an environment that wraps cozy, warm, bright, and cheerful arms around the most vulnerable of the valley and makes them feel loved. They are a family living under a roof of respect, love and community.
Over 350 children attend Kopila Valley School. Many are the first of their family to receive an education and most come from poor socioeconomic backgrounds. The school, however, is more than just a place to learn. The school is a day program where students enjoy a warm nutritious meal, basic medical and dental care, and after school activities like sports, music, crafts, and cooking classes.
In 2013, Blink Now opened the Kopila Valley Women’s Center. On a daily basis the center is alive with activity as girls from around the region take part in daily classes, gaining the skills and tools to become economically self-sufficient and in turn improving the lives of their families.
It goes without saying that over the course of the past 10 years and with unwavering dedication from Maggie and her team this small part of the world has flourished with community pride. BlinkNow has set a standard for the renewel of lives that trickles down to even the tiniest of Kopila Valley's citizens.
If you know of a non-profit organization doing great work with orphans, let us know! We would love to feature them in our RainbowKids Orphan Care Alliance.
Author bio: Julie Barclay’s life has been dedicated to children. A former public school teacher and summer camp counselor-in-training director from the Pacific Northwest, Julie has worked with varied populations of children, always advocating for those most vulnerable. After having a biological daughter and son, Julie and her husband welcomed home an infant son from Korea in 2002.
Just over a year later, the Barclay’s family grew again. After seeing the photolisting of a 6-year-old boy with a heart condition in China, the family welcomed home their third son. In 2008 the Barclay clan welcomed their 5th child and 4th son, a 6-year-old from Ethiopia.
In 2013 Julie’s life was touched by adoption one more time. Through a genetic testing service, a cousin had found her and reached out with a Facebook message, “I believe we are cousins, would you like to connect via email?” The sender? Martha Osborne, founder of RainbowKids.com
Since that day, Martha (adoptee and mom to 5 through Intercountry adoption) and Julie have created a seamless blend between their families. Together, they have joined their passion to advocate for vulnerable children and have expanded RainbowKids from an adoption advocacy website, to a dedicated child and family welfare website.
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Rest in peace sweet boy and please know you will never be forgotten