At 27, Maggie Doyne is the happiest single mother of 40 children in the world. She and the orphans she has taken in live together at Kopila Valley Children’s Home, a beautiful refuge of hope that she founded in Surkhet, Nepal. “Our home,” she says, “is a safe, calm, warm environment where the children may feel their own power, and ultimately grow to share that strength with their families, communities, and the world.”
In high school, Maggie poured her considerable energy into excelling at academics, sports, and extracurricular activities. However, high school left her burned out. “I knew so many facts, but so little about myself,” Maggie says, “so I decided to take a gap year before college.” With little but a backpack, she set off in 2005 to see the world. Maggie had never left the country before, but that didn’t deter her from setting out on a solo journey that would dramatically alter her life’s direction.
Maggie explains, “I found there was so much to discover outside the four walls of a classroom. I got my passion back—passion to live, learn, and be human again.” Maggie volunteered to work in northeast India with Nepalese refugees who had fled the Maoist insurgency in their homeland. “I didn’t even know Nepal was a country,” she admits. “Here were people living in deplorable conditions—no water, no sanitation—and it made me wonder why things were so bad that this was a better alternative.”
Her opportunity to find out came in 2006 during a ceasefire between the insurgents and the government when her friend Sunita, a 16-year-old refugee, invited Maggie to go with her to her village; it was on this trip that Maggie discovered a new sense of belonging and purpose. “We took a two-day bus trip to where the road ended, and then walked another two- and-a-half days,” she says. “As we trekked through Nepal we met hundreds of orphans. I fell in love with their bright eyes and beautiful smiles, but was shocked to see them barely surviving without the most basic things I had grown up with. I thought, ‘What have we done as a human family that our children are living this way?’ I was ashamed.”
One by one, Maggie started sending orphaned Nepali children to school in the Kopila Valley, where she rented a room, but she soon realized school alone wasn’t enough. “They needed a place to call home,” she recalls. So Maggie made a call to her parents in New Jersey and asked them to wire to her the $5,000 in life savings she had earned babysitting. “I bought my first piece of land in Nepal when I was 19,” she says. “Then I had to figure out how to raise money for a house.”
With few other employment options, Maggie flew home and started babysitting again. Soon, word spread in her hometown about the teenager who wanted to build an orphanage, and she was able to collect enough money to return to Nepal and start construction. More than 200 local people helped in the building process. Thanks to grants from CosmoGirl magazine and DoSomething.org, she finished the house and in 2010 opened Kopila Valley School, providing 300 children with education, meals, and health care. A new health clinic and women’s center are the latest additions.
Her 40 children inspire Maggie to keep going and do more. “They are funny, bright, and cheerful,” she says. “They keep me hopeful about the future of our world. Every night we come together and talk about our day, do a family meditation, and send prayers out to ourselves and the world. We pray for peace and happiness for all beings.”
Maggie has big dreams, hoping next to build a high school. “I believe in the power of all of us working together to change the world for the better,” she says. “My heart is full and the future is exciting. There is so much still to do.”