Ten years ago, with her high school diploma and a backpack, Maggie Doyne left her New Jersey hometown to travel the world before college.
She lived in a Buddhist monastery, helped rebuild a sea wall in Fiji, then went to India and worked with Nepalese refugees. There, she met a young girl who wanted to find her family in Nepal. Doyne went with her.
That's when Doyne's life took an unexpected turn.
A decade-long civil war had just ended in the country, and Doyne witnessed its effects firsthand. She met women and children who were suffering, struggling to survive.
"It changed me," said Doyne, now 28. "There were children with mallets that would go into the riverbed, pick up a big stone and break it into little, little pieces (to sell). And they were doing that all day, every day."
Doyne called her parents and asked them to wire her the $5,000 she had earned babysitting.
In 2006, she purchased land in Surkhet, a district in western Nepal. She worked for two years with the local community to build the Kopila Valley Children's Home.
Today, Kopila -- which means "flower bud" in Nepali -- is home to about 50 children, from infants to teenagers.
Doyne started the BlinkNow Foundation to support and grow her efforts. In 2010, the group opened its Kopila Valley School, which today educates more than 350 students.
Doyne lives in Nepal year-round, traveling to the U.S. a few times a year.
The CNN Heroes team traveled to Surkhet and talked to Doyne about her work and the community she supports. Below is an edited version of their conversation.
CNN: How does it work, raising nearly 50 kids?
Maggie Doyne: It's communal living, for sure!
We're a family of almost 50 kids ages 8 months to 16 years. Everybody just pitches in and helps each other. They all have their chores. They all have their duties. And everybody cooks the meals together and makes sure that they do their part to make the home run smoothly. The staff at the home, we call them the aunties and the uncles.
We wake up in the morning and go off to school. And then come home and do homework and eat our meals together, and everybody goes to bed at night.
CNN: How does a child come to live in your home?
Doyne: Our first priority as an organization is to keep a child with their family if at all possible.
In order to come into the home, you need to have lost both parents, or in some rare cases have suffered extreme neglect, abuse or have a parent who's incarcerated. We have to conduct a full investigation. So usually that involves going to the child's village, making calls, doing police checks, getting documentation and paperwork. We have to dig up birth certificates, death certificates, make sure that everything lines up the way that they say it does.
CNN: Meanwhile, you have 350 children attending your school. What is their background?
Doyne: Every single year we'll get from 1,000 to 1,500 applicants. And we choose the ones who are the most needful and really won't be in school without us.
Most of them live in one room, a mud hut. A lot of them are just in survival mode. We try to relieve the burden from the family, so that the child has food, medical care, books, zero fees for education.
CNN: What have you learned working with the local community in Nepal?
Doyne: I learned very early on, from the beginning, that I couldn't come in and just be like, "Here, I have a vision. This is what we're going to do." That doesn't work. It has to be slow; it has to be organic. And it has to come from the community and be a "we" thing.
It's really important to me that this is a Nepali project, working for Nepal, for the community. So the faces that you see are strong Nepali women and amazing Nepali role-model men.
CNN: How does the project continue to grow?
Doyne: We started with the home and then school. We run the school lunch program. Then we needed to keep our kids really healthy, so we started a small clinic and then a counseling center. From there we started getting more sustainable and growing our own food. And then from there we decided to start a women's center.
We just bought a new piece of property to create a totally green and sustainable off-the-grid campus. This year we converted to solar energy. So we'll have a high school and then a day care, preschool, elementary, all the way up, and a vocational center where kids can become a thriving young adult with everything they need to succeed moving forward.
It's become so much more than just a little girl with a backpack and a big dream. It's become a community. And I want to teach and have other people take this example and hope this sets a precedent for what our world can be and look like.
This young lady is brilliant!
For several years i have been loaning money through Kiva. Kiva is a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of micro-finance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world. I am one of 1,363, 259 people who have loaned a total of nearly one billon dollars to thousands of people around the world. Individual loans are small, but are combined with the loans of many others to invest in small business in developing countries. I like to support women in these countries, and specifically those that are working to start or build grocery stores.
Have a look at Kiva. If I can answer any questions let me know. I think it is a very good way to contribute.
Nobody told me that I had named the song incorrectly for the past few weeks. Everybody - keep your eyes on the fries.
Two of my favourite musicians have come together to sing one of Canada's iconic songs (one of everybody's favourites). The song is Songbird, written my Gene McClelland and originally recorded by Anne Murray.
Kathleen Edwards was born in 1978 in Ottawa and after high school became a full time singer-songwriter and musician - a 20 year career recording and travelling. I admire those who stick to the dream and come out the other end healthy and sane. Today she runs a coffee cafe in Stittsville, Ontario - lets drop in.
Bahamas was born Afie Jurvanen in Toronto but was raised in Barrie, Ontario - in other words, a local boy.
Arrived safe and sound on December 1st and we have settled in very nicely. The house had been cleaned and the furniture moved out into the patio, but we needed to get food and water. I always leave a few bottles of beer and wine in the fridge when we leave so there is not a lot of pressure. Tennis started the next day so the social side is also under control.
Carol arrived with some gruesome headaches and I arrived with my sinus faucets wide open. Some antihistamines and pain killers and we are starting to come around.
Yesterday we purchased some gardening tools and started to spruce the place up a bit. We intend this to be a lower investment year, so it seemed appropriate that Friday we were at Best Buy purchasing a new washer and dryer and today we have ordered a new front entrance door. The good news is that we feel quite at home. Temperature is in the low sixties at night and mid seventies during the day. We cannot complain about that.
I dragged my baking steel 15 pounds of steel to California (put it on Carol's side of the car to balance the weight) to master BBQ pizza. The steel was heated to about 500 degrees (F) and then I slid a homemade pizza onto it. The result - about 1/16th (ok, maybe an 1/8th) of an inch of carbon, then 3/8th of an inch of nearly cooked dough covered by the toppings. The toppings were good. Carol and I ate enough carbon to filter our liquids for about a week. Next I will try the oven, I have had quite a bit of success with this at home. Gotta keep pushing the envelope though.
We are watching Anderson Cooper's annual Heroes show. Very inspiring! A must watch every year.
Hope all is well in the North.
Mid-sized drive yesterday, and best of all - Carol drove for two hours; I had a midday nap. The weather was much, much better - blue skies and dry pavement - 80MPH the whole way. We stayed at a Drury Inn, so some of you know what we had for dinner. The steamers were as good as ever. It is now 6:30AM and we are up and showered and ready to go. There is one more time change so we will easily be in Palm Desert by noon.
With not much to do last evening, Carol started planning the entertainment calendar for this winter. First up:
early December at a local casino; just cheap tickets.
Getting old is miserable. You lack the stamina you used to have and muscles give up when they are needed. We did not get out to see Coco in Austin. After a full day of driving in the rain (9 hours) we were just too tired to leave the hotel room. Instead we slept. Then got up and drove in dreary grey rainy weather for a good part of today. Finally the forecast says that we will get some good weather. We did stop yesterday in Shreveport LA for lunch. Ken Whitaker had sent along the lunch suggestion:
Have a look.
- Ken: Happy Thanksgiving! I am recovering from overeating yesterday. We're going to the new James Bond movie this evening and will leave Boise tomorrow to head South. It looks like we will be arriving in PD in the evening on Monday 11/30. Are you guys going to be there by then? If not let me know when you will be arriving and we'll try to get tennis set up.
and then later when Ken heard that we did go for lunch -
- Ken: I hope you had a Shrimp Buster and went inside where there is a profile of an Indian shot into a piece of metal by the original Herby K. It's now run by the ex daughter-in-law of the founder. The son (her ex-husband) had a drug problem and the daughter-in-law used to run it with the mother-in-law (wife of Herby K) until she died.
That area of town died around the bar but they never moved. They tried expanding to a second location but that didn't work for some reason. We went there after my mother's and my father's funeral. As a kid my mother and father would sit in one side of the old wooden booths and the 3 boys on the other and Dad would drink draft beers from big frosted glasses.
We did have Shrimp Busters - very nice.
Ken referred to the "area of town dying". There were two or three blocks of buildings that have been abandoned and are falling down. the restaurant is right in the middle. If it had not been raining we would have explored and taken photos. Very interesting.
We are only in Jackson trying to avoid the storm and it appears to be working. There was just enough rain yesterday to make me stop the car and remove the bicycle seats. I had forgotten to do this as we left home. We pulled into Jackson early did some laundry and went to bed. Austin TX for Saturday night. We will attempt to get into the Saxon Pub tomorrow night to listen to Bobby Whitlock and Coco Carmel. Bobby played with Derek and the Dominos and Bonnie and Delaney in the old days. Coco is just Coco.
A short driving day made even shorter by listening to Richard Dawkins narrate his auto-biography. An amazing life. One of the campaigns supported by Dawkins that I am most interested in is "Ask For Evidence". The thinking is that when you are presented with "claims", you should look for evidence that supports those "claims". You should do this for new drugs, diets, religion, Donald Trump. Here is the place to go Ask for Evidence.
After checking into the hotel, we walked to the music district and spent a couple of hours at Robert's Western World a honky-tonk and country bar. Most Nashville bars were closed for Thanksgiving, but the ones that were open were busy and hopping. Robert's Western World is three doors down from Tootsie's (closed) and was featuring "The 12 Hour 6th Annual Eileen Rose & Silver Threads Thanksgiving Show" - happy smiles on our faces. We stayed for hours 4 and 5 of the marathon, and they were still yakking, honking and singing everything in sight. The 82 and 80 year old 2-stepping couple at the next table were regulars out enjoying the music, the dancing and a couple of 2 dollar beers. Nice, just what you hope to see in Nashville.
Today we are off to Jackson Mississippi. Why? We are trying to get as far south as we can before we head into the storm that has hit northern Texas. The weather maps show that if I can get into southern Texas before turning west, we might miss a lot of bad weather. I am following the map at US Weather Service and it shows a clear path along the Rio Grande.
Today is Black Friday!
- Tonight - Fort Wayne, Indiana.
- Tomorrow night - Nashville, Tennessee - downtown, walking distance to the music.
- who knows from there
There is nothing too exciting to report about our first day on the road except for a nice visit with Bronwen and Eryn in Guelph. We all had lunch together. Bronwen gave Eryn a dill pickle and she really seemed to enjoy chewing and sucking on the vinegar. Occasionally her face would pucker up but she would keep on going.
The drive seemed long, with fog in the morning as we left Collingwood and the 401 closed at Tilbury for a multi-car prang. Stopped at the Outlet mall in Fremont, but the Calphalon store had gone out of business. Today we start in Fort Wayne and head to Nashville. I have been scouring the internet for music in Nashville hoping to go to the Bluebird Cafe but it is American Thanksgiving. Looks like Tootsie's might be open though.
Tried to book a room in Baton Rouge, but the prices are sky-high - $300US plus a deposit of another $300 if you live within 50 miles of Baton Rouge. This being a deposit for damages. There must be a local college football game. So - - we will shorten the drive on Friday and stay in Jackson Mississippi. By Saturday morning the storm in the mid-west should have subsided and we can shoot across the lower part of Texas, to California.
Ron Hynes passed away this past Thursday. I have been watching snippets of the funeral service in St John's - lots of Ron's songs being sung by Amelia Curran, Allan Doyle and Ron's family. The Internet is full of beautiful tributes to Ron. I will just say that I was a big fan from the moment I heard Ron being interviewed by Shelagh Rogers on CBC. On that show he introduced two new songs (The Mother Who Bore Me in Pain and Dry), both songs about his ongoing battles with drug addiction. The songs and interview were so candid that I went looking for more Ron Hynes. I have remained a big fan. There is no video posted here. There are several videos posted on YouTube that you could browse around.
Jackson Allan Garland 10lb 9oz. A New Family Record!
Mother and son doing just fine. Everybody very happy.