New Jersey Daily Record
Maggie Doyne would be graduating from college this year, had she taken the same path as most of her classmates. Advertisement Instead, the 22-year-old Mendham High School alum has spent the past three years running a home for orphans in Nepal, and recently won an $100,000 grant to continue her work. In 2005, Doyne decided to postpone college, setting off instead to travel. She ended up in Nepal, a country ravaged by a 10-year civil war between Maoist rebels and the monarchical government, and was moved by the number of orphaned children she saw and by the gloomy conditions of the schools and orphanages. Just months out of high school, she had her parents wire her $5,000, all of her savings, to open the Kopila Valley Children's home in Surkhet, Nepal. Three years later, it is home to 26 children, ranging in age from 3 to 11, and, for most of the year, Doyne herself. She and her nonprofit have enrolled 75 Nepalese children in school, paying their fees and for their school supplies, and also have assisted in the placement of hundreds of orphaned and displaced children.
For her work in Surkhet, Doyne was the grand-prize winner at the Do Something Awards, receiving $100,000 to build a school, which also will serve as a medical clinic and community center, next to the Kopila Valley Children's Home. Do Something is an organization that helps young people promote social change, said Kevin Hughes, public relations manager for the organization. This is the 12th time that Do Something has held an award ceremony. This year, the organization flew in 12 finalists, selected five $10,000 grant winners, and then announced the grand-prize winner during an award ceremony televised on VH1 at The Apollo Theater in New York City. When Doyne realized that her name had been called, she said she bolted across the stage to give the presenter, VH1 President Tom Calderone, an enormous hug. "It was just this huge adrenaline rush, incredible. All of my dreams coming true in a second,'' she said "She saw a problem in Nepal. She saw these one million orphans that needed a home, that needed a childhood. She tackled it, and she succeed,'' Hughes said. "She's kind of humbling to all of us. She's a dynamic young person that just blew us away.'' The school will be a free, open school for "marginalized, poor, low-caste children,'' Doyne said. It will run from kindergarten to eighth grade. Doyne believes that with education, Nepalese children can begin to tackle the country's problems. "I really think that these cycles, this perpetuation of violence and wars and disease, can be ended when we start to just pay attention to what (children's) surroundings are, how they grow up,'' she said. Education is important for both boys and girls in Nepal, she said. "When a girl has even the most basic primary education, she has less children. ... She can marry better; she can educate her own children,'' she said. The school will include a medical clinic, which will provide primary health care for the community as well as preventative care, including immunizations and basic nutrition and health awareness. She plans to hire a doctor to work at the clinic once a week. At night, the school building will serve as a community center. Doyne plans to provide tutoring and vocational training to the community, including husbandry, gardening, stitching and bicycle repair. Doyne also envisions using the community center to work with women in the community, including teaching literacy and opening a microfinance center to provide women with small loans. Doyne, who now speaks Nepali, lives in her children's home for most of the year. "We live as one family … eat, sleep, everything … we're all together under one roof,'' she said. "My kids are still really little, and I just try to get up in the morning and get showered and get them off to school.'' She handpicks the children Kopila Valley admits, traveling to remote villages, spending hours on buses to pick up children whom she has heard have no family, or to learn the stories of children who come to her. The hardest thing is ""not being able to help everyone,'' she said. "We can help who we can help, and sometimes you feel like your just one really small fish in one really big ocean of issues,'' she said. "I'm just one piece of this really big puzzle and I have to do the best that I can'' She works on the local level in Surket, but she's also frustrated by the way foreign aid is distributed in Nepal, saying it does not reach those who need it the most. "I really think we need to hold NGOs (nongovernment organizations), government officials, all of these organizations accountable for the foreign aid that is received to be sure that its used at the grassroots level ... to invest in these people through education, health care, and infrastructure,'' she said. Doyne plans to stay in the United States until July, "talking, meeting with people and doing a lot budgeting and planning,'' she said. Then she'll head back on the two to three day journey to Surkhet. "For now I'm just so excited to get back and get started and get going with my mission,'' she said. As for college, she said, "I can't say I'll never go back … I consider this just a detour that worked out really well.''