Building a Home for the Children of Nepal

At 19, Maggie Doyne left home to go backpacking–and found her life’s calling halfway around the world

headed by Fast Company columnist Nancy Lublin, has recognized four
young social entrepreneurs with $10,000 grants–and one with a prize of
$100,000. Fast Company has profiled one of these enterprising youth
each day this week. This is the last in the series.


When Maggie Doyne was 19, she traveled to Nepal and made a call to her parents from a tiny shack of a phone booth. She told them she was staying there. And then she asked them to send over the $5000 in her bank account, which she had saved from years of babysitting, so she could open a home for orphaned children.

The money turned out to be just enough to buy a small plot of land in the town of Surkhet. She then raised funds to build the three-story Kopila Valley Children’s Home. Doyne, now 22 and the recipient of the 2009 Do Something Awards’ $100,000 top prize, lives there 10 months out of the year, taking care of the 26 Nepali children from ages 3 to 11 who call it home.

Doyne first felt the pull toward this work while volunteering at a school and orphanage in India. She served as the director’s chief aide, and quickly learned the not-for-profit ropes, from budgeting to dealing with donors to managing a school with hundreds of kids.

While she was at the Indian school, she met Nepali refugees who had crossed the border to escape the civil war. Moved by their stories of poverty and violence, she planned a trip to see the country firsthand. After meeting children who had lost their families, who were forced to be child soldiers, and who were unable to attend school, she decided they needed a safe haven–and that she would provide it.

maggie and the gang

She chose Surkhet for its safety and convenience (it has a bank and post office) and purchased the plot of land. She then returned to her home state of New Jersey to make more money–baby-sitting, dog-sitting, plant-sitting, and sending funds back to Nepal in increments of $200 and $300. Finally, she realized that she could walk dogs and watch kids for years, but the kids she really cared about weren’t going to be taken care of unless she asked others for help. So she decided to share all the suffering she’d seen. “I felt kind of let down. How have I lived my whole life without knowing that children are living like this in the world?” she says. She ended up raising $60,000 in five months, building support among other students, in churches, and through local nonprofits and civic groups.


Back in Nepal, Doyne slowly built the house from the ground up, brick by brick, one step at a time, with the help of more than 250 villagers. She solicited a local architect when the house needed to be designed, a local plumber when the septic tank needed to be installed. She also became fluent in Nepali and lobbied city planners, the head of the city, and local government officials for their help. After almost two years, her home officially opened.


Doyne quickly encountered a disappointing reality: She didn’t have space to match the need. She has thoroughly researched the background of each child she has taken in, trekking to remote villages to ensure that there are no relatives who could take them in.

The Kopila Valley Children’s Home is now packed–two to three children share each bed–but the prize money already has Doyne thinking about expansion. “$100,000 is like $10 million over there, it really is!” She also plans on building a free school for the children and community, even opening it up in the evenings to bring women in for literacy classes and vocational training.


Her long-term vision goes even further. Doyne hopes that the Kopila Valley Chlidren’s Home can serve as a model for others to build their own children’s homes and schools, not just in Nepal but wherever they might be needed. “Until we start educating the kids, these cycles of violence and extreme poverty and disease are just going to perpetuate,” Doyne says. “We really do have to start with the children of this world, and I think when you figure it out–that’s when poverty and violence end.”

More winners’ stories:
Eric Glustrom: Choosing Your Own Adventure in Uganda
Marvelyn Brown: Raising HIV Awareness, One Young Person at a Time
David Burstein: Getting the Facebook Generation Out to Vote
Darius Weems: Pimping His Ride–and the Push to Cure a Disease