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Maggie Doyne | Forget the 80 Million, Start with One

Maggie Doyne | Forget the 80 Million, Start with One

Maggie Doyne - You Can Do Anything

Winner of the CNN Hero of the Year Award, Maggie was just an average gap year student trying to find her way in the world when she came across something she could never un-see. This is how one girl single-handedly changed the lives of hundreds with this one thought: "Forget the 80 million, start with one".


How does a 23-year-old American girl from New Jersey, college-bound four years ago, end up in a remote Himalayan village raising over 200 children who have been orphaned as a result of disease and civil war? My story began exactly five years ago, when 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, so I packed up a backpack with very few belongings, and I decided to take a trip around the world. I had never really traveled, never left my country. All of a sudden my whole world opened up. There was so much to learn, and so much to discover outside of the walls of a four-walled classroom. I was walking down the road one day when I locked eyes with this little girl. Her name's Lacora. Her job every day was to take loads from the bus park all the way into the villages, and she'd go back and forth, back and forth all day. She'd make a dollar, two dollars in the day to feed her family. This is the life of a Nepalese orphan.

I looked at her, and I saw every single piece of myself, and I was devastated. I thought, "What have we done as a human family that our children are living this way?" I soon kept reading, and I found out that there were 80 million children just like her in the world, and I was devastated, and then I met one particular girl. Her name was [Hema 00:01:41], and this is Hema here. She was seven years old, but every day when I walked to meet her, she'd just smile with these big, bright eyes, and she'd say, "Namaste, Dee Dee." I thought for the first time, "Okay, Maggie. Forget the 80 million. What if you just started with Hema? Is there something that you can do to change the life of just one child?" I thought at 18, and as the entrepreneurial mind that I have, okay, I can do that. What if I just supported the education of this one child? How would her life change? This is Hema a couple weeks later. I put her into school, and followed, and tracked her progress, but the sad thing was, was that I didn't think it was enough. There were kids that didn't have homes and families, and they were orphans.

One day, I had this idea. I found a piece of land, and it just happened to be $5,000, and I wanted to build a home for orphaned kids, a home, and a school, and a base. I called up my parents, and I said, "Can you send me over my $5,000 of life savings?" I had saved up from the time I was about six years old, every penny. I babysat starting from the time I was 12 to when I was 18, and sure enough, they wired over that $5,000, and I bought my first piece of property in Nepal. The world will change when our children and our women are educated. They have less children. They raise better families. They raise more educated children. Their disease, everything decreases, poverty levels. Communities and villages change. The thing about this work that I do is that it's very addicting, so I thought, okay, one kid. If I could do one, why not 10? What if my dream was to walk across this dry riverbed one day and not see a single child breaking stone? That's what I want. I want to create a world that I want to see every day, and I think we have a power to do that.

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, and we have gifts, and this just happened to be mine, and I'm really lucky to have found it, and created my little slice of heaven, my little paradise. I think that the world will change when we all find that for ourselves, where we wake up every day. We wouldn't rather be anywhere else in the world, doing any other kind of work. We think of all the things we don't have instead of the things that we do have. Oh, I could do that if I had more money. Once I have my PhD, after I'm settled, after I'm established, after I'm famous. What if everything you had was everything you have right now, your body, and your mind, and that sense of, I can do anything?

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