Maggie and her two sisters, Kate and Libby, grew up in Mendham Borough, New Jersey. Nancy, their mother worked in real estate – their father, Steve, was a stay-at-home dad. After graduating from West Morris Mendham High School, Maggie embarked on a gap year. The purpose of a gap year – typically the year between high school and college – is to allow the individual to experience the world – to deepen practical, professional, and personal awareness.
Maggie left home with a ruck sack and a sense of adventure. Her travels led to several unique experiences. She lived in a Buddhist monastery, helped to rebuild a sea wall in Fiji and traveled to India. There she worked at a children’s home serving Nepalese refugees. It was there that she met Top Malli, a Napoli working at the home. He and the other refugees had fled the brutality of a 13-year long civil war. That conflict had just ended, when Top decided to return to his home country – Maggie chose to travel with him.
Less than a year earlier, she had been a typical American high school student. What she experienced in Nepal would change the course of her life – and that of thousands of others. She witnessed poverty, starvation and people – mainly women and children – struggling just to survive. Maggie witnessed children hammering on the big rocks in a dry river bed in order to break off smaller stones which they would then sell. One of those kids, a 6-year old girl named Hima, would touch Maggie’s heart. Maggie determined that she would provide schooling for Hima.
There were many more children that needed help – kids whose parents had been killed in the war or were incapable of helping. Maggie contacted her parents and had them wire her $5,000 savings, earned from babysitting jobs while in school. She used that money to buy a small parcel of land on which she built a house for herself, Hima and other kids she had taken responsibility for.
It was 2007. Maggie was 19. She was determined to make a difference. Her first step, together with Malli, was to create a non-profit foundation, BlinkNow. To be successful, she knew that it would be critical to engage the local Nepalese people. Shortly thereafter, the Kopila Valley Children’s Home opened. A school which accommodated 400 students followed. Next would be a health clinic and a women’s center. Nepali people comprised 90% of the staff – many of them orphans themselves.
In addition to Hima, Maggie would become mother to 51 children. The Kopila Valley structure would expand to four stories – large enough to provide safe and comfortable space for kids ranging in age from 1 to 19 years old. To be clear, it’s not an orphanage – it’s a home. Maggie created a family atmosphere – the children have chores, meditation time and importantly, a place where they belong. In addition to studies, students at the school participate in sports, community projects and are able to just be kids.
Because of her efforts – more correctly the results of her efforts – Maggie received the Forbes Award for Excellence in Education in 2013. She was honored by the Dalai Lama as an Unsung Hero of Compassion in 2014 and in 2015, she was named 2015 CNN Hero of the Year. The results are phenomenal – the accolades impressive. All of this is the result of Maggie Doyne being a fearless brand.
Fearless Brands take action that makes a difference
Maggie Doyne, not yet 30, has made significant and positive impact in the world. Her foundation, BlinkNow, continues to thrive, as does the community it supports. They recently purchased a new property to create a totally green and sustainable ‘off-the-grid’ campus. They’ve converted to solar power.
Two factors may be most responsible for the continued success of this social enterprise. First, Maggie was determined to create a sense of family, filling a major void in the lives and spirit of an entire region. Second is the involvement of the local Nepali people, a strategy which Doyne adopted from the beginning and to which she remains fully committed.
There’s much to learn from what Maggie Doyne has created – and how she’s gone about making her vision a reality.
Know your purpose – Maggie Doyne set out as an 18-year-old to help others and experience life. She had no idea where that would lead. Seeing the devastating impact of war embodied in a 6-year-old orphan girl. For Maggie, meeting Hima crystallized her purpose. Knowing and embracing your purpose is essential to achieving your goals, adding value and enjoying the satisfaction that brings. You also need to realize that there is no specific timeline to finding your purpose. For some, it becomes clear early in life. For most of us, however, it’s a longer journey – one which requires experience, failure and determination. Be diligent. Be open.
Your team must share your values – Maggie Doyne and BlinkNow are very direct about how different and difficult life is in Kopila. They do so intentionally, first to scare off people who may not be able to adapt. Secondly, they want to ensure that they only attract people who truly embrace their purpose and that are committed to respecting the local culture. The same thinking must be applied to your business. Be certain to have a process to attract and hire only those people who fit your company purpose and culture.
Don’t force your beliefs when collaborating – As Doyne said in an interview with CNN – “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.” What works in one culture may not work at all in another. This is true as it pertains to countries and businesses. Starting with a self-righteous and closed attitude is a quick path to failure.
Maggie Doyne has been named a Hero of the Year. You and I may never achieve such an accolade – at least not on a global scale. However, we can be the Hero of the Year in our world. Follow Maggie’s example. Find your purpose, no matter how long it takes. Focus on how you can add value to others. Trust the process. Be a fearless brand.