In a time when we need to believe that angels are walking among us- Maggie Doyne is proof that they are. At just 18, on a gap year, before college, Maggie found herself doing service work overseas in order to learn about herself. She ended up in India where there had been a huge influx of orphaned children from Nepal due to civil war. She decided to investigate, with a friend in her program, who had fled years earlier and hadn’t been back. After two days on a bus and two days walking through the Himalayas they arrived. The poverty she witnessed left her forever changed. She met a little girl named Hima who lived and worked, breaking rocks, by a dry riverbed. She would sell those rocks to bring home money for her family. She was only 6 years old. Maggie knew she should be in school so she paid the tuition and got her books… Which equated to less than $7 US. Maggie took her life savings of $5000, which she earned babysitting, and bought a piece of land. That piece of land would eventually become the Kopila Valley School and Children’s Home. This school would come to provide a nutritious meal, access to basic healthcare and a chance to make something of themselves. She did this all at an age when most of us are funneling beers in some frat house. Now at 30 years old Maggie, with the help of a solid team of people from around the world, is transforming education and lives in the Kopila Valley. She’s also the adopted mother to 49 children. It hasn’t been an easy 10 years but she has persisted and grown. Just last year after the tragic passing of her youngest child, Ravi, Maggie wasn’t sure she could go on. We all know the loss of a child is a mothers worst fear and, for her, it was being realized. It was in the darkest moment when she met the love of her life Jeremy, who she credits with lifting her out of those excruciating moments.
Jeremy, a talented filmmaker and photographer is currently working on a documentary about Maggie, her love for her children and life beyond loss. It’s called, “Love Letters for My Children.” I was lucky enough to speak to both Jeremy and Maggie about Maggie’s children, their journey and their hopes for the future. Hopefully it’s as inspiring to you as it has been to me.
When did you first hear of Maggie’s work?
Jeremy: Initially a good mutual friend Libby Delana had told me about her and then she invited me to this incredible gathering of amazing people called DO LECTURES where we met in person for the first time. You spend a weekend on a vineyard with 150 people that are all there to talk about how to DO MORE. And you sleep in Tipis. Yeah… incredible. She was one of the speakers there and I was so captivated by what she was about and who she is as a human. That was the first time really that I heard of or had met her.
What made you want to get on board?
Jeremy: We shared an immediate bond over her outlook that “focusing on raising the children of the world is how we can change our future.” and to be honest we just had so much fun together that weekend dancing, listening to inspiring people from all over the world tell their stories and I was so pleasantly surprised how humble and normal she was for all that she had accomplished.
How have you seen the organization/Maggie/kids grow since you met?
Jeremy: In any family there is so much change in a years time, so when you multiply that by 50 kids… Constant Change. The kids all grow up so fast especially the youngest ones, it is so hard to be gone from them months at a time, I have seen them go through so much already. The most exciting change in the organization I have seen is the building of the new Kopila Valley High School which they hope to be one of the greenest campus’s on earth!! It has been so exciting to see how they are approaching it building it all from rammed earth and green supplies, and it will be an incredible center to help people of all ages, a vocational center, a farm, sport centers, high school and so much more.
What stage did you realize you loved this woman?
Jeremy: We went on a series of road trips when we first met, we just drove and talked for hours and hours, She was going through a lot at that time so it started very organically with me just wanting to comfort this incredible woman, who was my friend, and who had given so much good to the world and yet was in so much pain after the loss of her son. But It was on that first trip that I knew though, we really got to know one another and we had so much fun on that journey. We still are.
When you made the decision to buy the land with your babysitting money did you know in your heart this would be your life’s work?
Maggie: Not totally. I didn’t actually realize it would be my life’s work until the kids came into the equation. At first I thought, okay I’ll build a home, do my part and then go back and finish my studies. I didn’t realize I’d be staying until after I fell in love with all the kids and the home was built and our family grew.
What was your life like before Nepal?
Maggie: I was a pretty much your typical suburban soccer playing high school girl destined for college. I was doing everything that I was “supposed to do” and everything expected of me.
What are some of your biggest challenges/inspirations?
Maggie: Challenges: getting my kids to bed like every single night.
Taking on the pain and suffering in my children’s life as my own. It leaves for some pretty hard moments and there’s a lot of sadness. Sometimes it’s hard to compartmentalize. I literally want every single kid to move in with us.
What are some of the struggles you’ve seen Maggie go through?
Jeremy: I am always so impressed by all that she is able to go through and still be able to give the love she does to everyone. In Nepal their is struggle everywhere, with the community, the children, poverty, and the past year has been incredibly challenging in particular so it seems to be a way of life sometimes. I see how hard it is for her to have to be between America and Nepal and split her time up between all her loved ones. I am incredibly proud of her for being so strong, open and vulnerable this past year as I think most people wouldn’t be able to get out of bed if they’ve seen half the challenges she has and her wanting to share that story with the world is so inspiring to me.
Do you feel like you were chosen by a higher power for this life?
Maggie: I’m not totally sure. It all feels like a mystery to me and a series of unexpected things happening. I like to believe in magic and things being “meant” to be but I’ve also lived and seen a lot of hard things that have left me with many questions.
What changes have you seen in the community/children since the introduction of Kopila?
Maggie: There used to be a ton of kids breaking rocks by the dry river bed that ran through the town. Now all those kids are in school which makes me proud. Primary school enrollment, especially amongst girls is at record breaking highs. Also my kids are absolutely thriving. They are safe, nourished, and loved. It’s been fun watching them grow up and become amazing young leaders with ideas and futures of lives of their own.
Is it difficult having individual relationships with all of your children?
Maggie: Sometimes it’s difficult. They are always going through different stages and phases and yes, there’s only so many hours in a day but I try really hard to connect with them, hug them every day, listen to their worries and their joys and tell them I love them. Every night before bed we do satsung where we sing songs and dance and talk about our days and I try to tuck them all in at night. I thought I always liked the younger kid stage more so than teenagers, but now that I have a house full of teenagers I’m kind of loving it.
Do you ever miss the US?
Maggie: Yes there are times I miss certain comforts of home like hot showers. The hardest part is missing the every day moments with family and friends. Obviously wouldn’t trade it for anything and I’m lucky I get to go back quite often. It’s been really fun this year because my older kids are doing study abroad and I’ve gotten to have time them in the states too.
Where do you think the public could be of most help to blink now?
Jeremy: I think spreading their message around the world and getting the word out there and of course donating to www.blinknow.org — We’re making a film all about Maggie’s journey over the last year as well called Love Letters for My Children — www.MaggieDoyneDocumentary.com
How can the public be of most service to the work that you do?
Maggie: Everything we do is with support from our community of followers, friends, and donors. Please follow along on BlinkNow.org, Facebook, instagram. We have a wishlist, a sponsorship program, and always have campaigns going on. We also announce volunteer positions or what our needs are there.
Who inspires you?
Maggie: Pema Chodron and Marianne Williamson have helped me a lot this year. Also the team that I work with. We are all so close, like family really. Raising kids together and the things we have been through have really brought us together. I don’t know what I’d do without them.
How did you know which children would come live with you?
Maggie: First and foremost, We do everything we can to keep kids, even orphans with extended relatives and within their family structure. In the event that a child needs to come and live in our home there’s a really intense vetting and investigation process that involves the community, my board, and the Nepali government.
What are some of the struggles/joys of having so many children?
Maggie: It’s like summer camp every single day. There’s never ever a dull moment.
Will there be more additions in the future?
Maggie: I always say I’m done and I’ve reached my limit but inevitably there is a case that comes our way that I can’t turn down. I’m planning the intake of a little girl in the next month or so and am currently working on paperwork.
You’ve experienced some incredible triumphs and tragedies in your work from what I’ve seen. How do you cope?
Maggie: I cry a lot. And then I make myself get up and put some music on, go for a walk, or go be with my children. Thank goodness for all of them. They give me something to live for every day.
What are your hopes for the future?
Maggie: That every single child in the world have a safe and loving family and home and their most basic needs and human rights met.
You’re a literal angel walking among us. Do you feel like one?
Maggie: Aww thank you but noooo, I definitely don’t feel like an angel. I feel like a pretty regular human being. If you met me I’m pretty sure you’d be like “ohhh she’s pretty normal.”
Imagine a world filled with people that “normal”.
*To donate to the Kopila Valley School and Maggie’s children visit Blinknow.org
*To help fund the documentary visit www.MaggieDoyneDocumentary.com
Pics by http://jeremypowerregimbal.com/