Wes is joined by Maggie Doyne, philanthropist, author, Founder of BlinkNow, and 2015’s CNN Hero of the Year Award recipient, to address discovering your philanthropic pursuits and how you can give back.
Maggie talks about finding herself in Nepal at a young age, how she felt the urge to make a change in the country based on an eye-opening experience, and her motivation for building a children’s home, women’s center, and school there. She provides updates about raising numerous children in Nepal and their success stories, along with why she believes there is something to be done everywhere in every community. The episode concludes with Maggie revealing tips for finding what gives you purpose and formulating ways to give back based on the change you want to see in the world. She also unveils details from her recent book, “Between the Mountain and the Sky,” her nonprofit BlinkNow, and how listeners can show support.
Read Show Notes From This Episode (click to expand and read notes from the full interview)
- In California during her book tour.Wes goes to the 7-question lightning round.Maggie – favorite song to sing: Encanto right now. It’s the latest Disney movie. Maggie says the album, in the first week, surpassed every song ever made. Laugh.Favorite core pursuit – Writing.
Favorite instrument – her daughter on the drums. Wes asks which daughter. This is her biological daughter, Ruby. She’s 4.
Favorite book – Cheryl Strayed – tiny beautiful things.
Favorite sports – US Women’s soccer team.
Favorite place she’s ever traveled in Michigan – She’s never been to Michigan. Laugh.
Favorite place in the United States – Jersey. Born and raised.
Favorite place in the world – Nepal. Easy.
Wes – takes us through the incredible, human story. Brings up his listener base to the Retire Sooner podcast. Maggie describes her journey. “How am I supposed to go to college?” Wes talks about this. About how the process should almost be in reverse. Maggie goes into this. Pressure cooker – SAT Scores. The process and the rat race of it all. Maggie traveled for the sake of fun. To have a year to explore that part of her. The first semester was surfing, meditating, and organic farming. That was that. A typical backpacking trip. She was in the South Pacific – Fiji, Australia, New Zealand. She loved it. When you’re a kid from New Jersey, that’s all you know. In the second part, she chose an internship. She ended up in a Nepali refugee community. She started to follow the news and events. That refugee community is struggling. The bottom billion of the world.
She tells a story about going to find her friend’s village. There is a civil war with Maoist rebels. It’s a huge struggle that disproportionately affects women and children. She was overwhelmed by it all. Walked across a dry riverbed quarry, watching kids breaking rocks to sell them to try to survive. As gravel for construction sites. Tiny children. Selling them for a dollar a day. Maggie felt so sad, betrayed, hopeless. It was so wrong. How do we live in a world like this?
At that point she decided to invest the little money she had – babysitting money from New Jersey – she moved to Nepal. She asked her parents to wire transfer her $5,000 – her life savings. She bought a piece of land. Her coworker is Tope Malla, a local who had been in India. They built a home. At this point, Maggie was only 18 years old. She came back to New Jersey, and did babysitting, garage sales, cupcakes, etc. to raise money. Then the local newspaper picked up the story and people from the town helped raise money. Finally got the school built, nestled in the foothills and the Himalayas.
Sometimes it helps to have blind optimism. Youth.
Maggie is 35 now. She has been living in Nepal for 17 years. She is the CEO of her foundation, BlinkNow. She comes back and forth to the US. She has a team of locals. They run a local clinic, raise food, and an after school program.
Kopila Valley School has about 500 kids. 166 students in college. They’ve supported thousands of migrant families. There’s not a single child left on the riverbed breaking rocks. It’s all funded through a non-profit that funds the NGO based in Nepal.
Maggie was warmly and humbly embraced by the local people. She raises children there. There are other house parents now. An incredible journey. It worked. You can take an orphan and turn them into a superstar if you give them a chance. She thinks the world can change when children have a childhood. It’s been a gift to watch that. And be passionate about it. Work toward a world that’s possible.
Maggie tells Hima’s story. The first girl they put into school. She’s now in college. They go to college regionally in Kathmandu. She also has a student at Notre Dame and other places but mostly regionally.
Maggie speaks Nepali. It took a couple of years, full immersion, and not having the option to speak English. They have a Nepal-based board.
Maggie has donors and supporters from all over the world. 6,000 active people who are contributing. Maggie’s message is you don’t have to move across the world and adopt 50 children to help. Maggie believes education is the biggest equalizer in the world. There is something to be done everywhere in every community. Supporting BlinkNow is amazing, but maybe you’ll find something else that helps you find purpose and meaning and can help.
Wes brings up Mitch Albom. Giving is living. And brings up how volunteering is the #1 thing for happy retirees.
Wes asks how people can find something – the right thing to give them purpose. Maggie argues that a 55-year-old is the perfect person to come to Nepal. Serving on boards is an incredible way to give. Volunteering. She believes in the power of philanthropy. There are so many cool, non-profit causes. Finding that thing that makes you tick. For her it was children breaking rocks on a riverbed.
Wes says maybe it’s just about getting in the river and starting. Maggie says, yeah, just dig in. Find the change you want to be in the world. Find that one step. Maybe it’s contributing $5. It’s more simple than we make it. We get scared about the world and we give up.
Maggie says it was radical generosity that helped it all bloom. Not just her. She was just one piece of the puzzle. It took tons of people. She says we are a human family.
Wes says, no wonder you were CNN Hero of the Year.
Wes asks Maggie to explain her book – “Between the Mountain and the Sky.” It’s a memoir about a girl coming of age. Finding hope. A lot of love stories. She’s been journaling and writing stories since she was 18. She wrote a diary all through the way. But during COVID, things got quiet and scary and she had a few months in North America where she thought “if I don’t do this now, I never will.”
COVID was devastating for Nepal. The economy relies on remittance and day labor. Food crisis. A combination of the actual virus and the backslide of hunger and not being able to be educated. Increased rates of violence against women and child marriage and child labor. That’s what happens when you pause an economy. The Delta variant was particularly bad for Asia. It wasn’t like kids in Nepal could hop on a zoom class. Some places don’t even have electricity.
Currently – Maggie’s organization has legal custody over the children and they work with welfare organizations for the children. In the beginning, it was Maggie alone but there were some grey lines. She didn’t have Nepali citizenship so they had an NGO. She became a mom because the kids started calling her mom.
Wes asks her to give a one-minute overview of a day in the life of a village. She does. For breakfast, they eat oatmeal or Suji. It’s kind of just a regular, giant family. That’s how it was designed. A commune of sorts. Wes says it sounds like the next Disney film.
Maggie describes BlinkNow.
Wes thanks her.
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