Maggie Doyne took a gap year when she was 18 and volunteered in Nepal. That’s when she met the orphan girl who changed her world.

Like many new graduates, Maggie Doyne was 18 when she took a gap year between high school and college, packed up a few of her belongings, and set out to see the world.

“I woke up one morning at 18-years-old and had a scary realization — I knew very little about myself and what I wanted in my life,” said Doyne.  

Fast-forward more than a decade later, she’s transformed the lives of hundreds of orphans in Nepal. 

Her very first step

Doyne’s story began when, after several months on the road, her travels led her to northern India, where she worked with poverty-stricken children at a school.  

At the time, neighbouring Nepal was nearing the end of a civil war, and refugees were pouring into the area. 

That is where Doyne became friends with a Nepali refugee, who’d been living in India and invited Doyne to visit her home village.

The remote Himalayan village where Doyne’s friend was from had been ravaged by the war. People were suffering from extreme poverty and Doyne felt powerless.

The little girl who changed everything

Walking along the road one day, she locked eyes with a little girl, whose job was to carry loads to and from the villages, every day. She earned two dollars a day to support her family.

It was a sight Doyne couldn’t unsee.

I looked at her and I saw every single piece of myself.

She said, “I was devastated. I thought ‘what have we done as a human family that our children are living this way?'”

Shocked by what she saw, she later found out that there were 80 million children across the globe living just like that little girl in Nepal.

Maggie’s bond with Hema

Soon after, Doyne met another little girl, named Hema.

7-year-old Hema broke rocks into gravel to earn money. Doyne went to meet her every day, and every day Hema greeted her with her big bright eyes, a radiant smile, and a warm “Namaste, sister!”

“I thought to myself for the first time, ‘Okay, Maggie, forget the 80 million, what if you just started with Hema?’” said Doyne.

Is there something you can do to change the life of just one child?

“I thought at 18, and as the entrepreneurial mind that I have — OK, I can do that. What if I just supported the education of this one child, how would her life change,” she said.

That’s when Doyne decided to take Hema under her wing and paid for her education.

One orphan becomes many

But helping Hema wasn’t enough for Doyne. There were still orphaned children, without families or homes and she wanted to make a difference in their lives.

“The world will change when our children and our women are educated. They have less children, they raise better families,” said Doyne.

So, she bought a small piece of land for $5,000 with her babysitting savings. Her goal was to build a shelter for orphaned children. 

Doyne continued to raise money and helped build a home for these Nepalese kids.

“The thing about this work that I do, is that it’s very addicting, so I thought, ‘Okay, one kid, if I can do one kid, why not 10?’” She continued.

What if my dream was to walk across this dry river bed one day and not see a single child breaking stone? That’s what I want.

The Kopila Valley Children’s Home welcomed 200 children when it first opened in 2007, and it continues to expand. Doyne has also opened a school in Kopila Valley, as well as shelters for women and girls, and a health clinic.

Your calling can start small and grow from there

“I don’t think you have to go 8,000 miles away to the foothills of the Himalayas, I think the beauty of all of us, is that we have talents, we have gifts, and this just happens to be mine, and I was just really lucky to have found it,” said Doyne.

Today, Doyne is the CEO and co-founder of the BlinkNow Foundation, a non-profit that is dedicated to empowering Nepalese youth.

I created my little slice of heaven, my little paradise, and I think that the world will change when we all find that for ourselves.

Maggie Doyne’s story is a great reminder that while we cannot solve all the world’s problems on our own, taking the first step of solving one problem you know you can tackle will empower you– and others– to make seismic changes in people’s lives.

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