As a teenager growing up in New Jersey, Maggie Doyne looked ahead to a future already written - college, career, student loans - and realized there must be more out there. During a gap year spent traveling in Southeast Asia, Maggie came face to face with a reality starkly different than the one she had known growing up - a refugee crisis, children forced into hard labor, and families torn apart by the Nepalese civil war. Struck by a deep affinity for the Nepalese people, Maggie new she had to act. She pooled what little resources she had, and together with her cofounder, a local Nepali man named Top Malla, she founded BlinkNow, a nonprofit organization that runs a school, women's center, and children's home in Surkhet Nepal.
When Maggie Doyne was getting ready to graduate high school, she looked at the path laid out for her by her middle-class New Jersey upbringing - college, student loans, get a job… how could she choose that path when he hadn’t even discovered who she was or wanted to be yet? So, Maggie decided to take a year off. She joined a gap year program called LEAPNOW and set off a chain of events that nobody could have anticipated - one that led to adventure, deep friendships, and a sense of purpose that would change the lives of countless children orphaned in the Nepalese Civil War.
While studying abroad in India, Maggie took an internship at a nonprofit organization called Ramana’s Garden. It was this internship that brought Maggie face-to-face with the struggle refugees fleeing the violence of the war,
“People were just sending kids the border to get them out. A lot of the Maoist rebellion strategy was to recruit child soldiers, and the tactic was to start in rural areas and take one child from every house. We were seeing people had lost parents and family in the ward and people forced to fight and kids just forced to leave because of the effects of poverty.”
Maggie forged a friendship with one of these refugees, a girl about her same age named Sunita. When the internship ended, she and Sunita trekked from India into Nepal in search of Sunita’s family. When they reached Sunita’s village, they found it had been decimated by the war. They found children doing manual labor instead of attending school, and Maggie knew she had to do whatever she could to help. Together with Sunita’s uncle Top, and a few thousand dollars saved up from babysitting jobs, Maggie created BlinkNow, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering Nepalese children by providing them a safe environment in which to grow, and giving them access to a quality education.
“It's not just learning basic literacy, there's this… whole child principle and what a child needs to thrive and grow within a community because the community is important. The family's important. And each, and every story was different, but you could see that there were these key, crucial elements that were needed and that led and helped us grow through our program.”
Like any many young organizations tackling big challenges, the story of BlinkNow is one of action, tenacity, innovation, and more than its fair share of luck. Today, that little organization launched by Maggie and Top has matriculated nearly 150 children, all orphans who might otherwise have very different futures ahead of them,
“They're up there with like the army school and the fancy private schools in the region. They’re winning soccer tournaments and poetry competitions and dance competitions… It's not rocket science. Like you give a child love and loving teachers, whole nutritious food, and the beautiful, all in all comprehensive curriculum and an after school program and a family counselor and home visits, you know, bring the family in. You can almost do anything. These children have so much potential.”
Sometimes organizations need to create ancillary programs around their core mission in order to ensure long-term success.
A large number of small recurring donors can be just as powerful as one or two major gifts.
It's important to find a balance between inspired action and expert advice.
Great can be the enemy of good.
To learn more about the life-changing work of the entire BlinkNow team and to make a donation that will directly support their programs in Nepal, visit BlinkNow.orgSupport BlinkNow
Cause & Purpose podcast
Guest: Maggie Doyne - BlinkNow
MAGGIE DOYNE: You’re a kid from Mendham, New Jersey, and you're watching your friend go through this, realizing that basically her family, everything that she knew was destroyed. We went and looked at the school that she would have gone to, and it was just ramshackle. Just the hard work of growing, everything that you consume, you want salts, you're carrying it three days in like we did. Or if you have any kind of pests come in, you're just not going to eat. Seeing the close-knit community, but also hearing stories of the war and what people were up against and what had, had done to women and children and just how people had suffered was also really raw and real. I remember having the sense that whole first trip, like, I want to do something here. I want to be here. I feel that this is the time to be in Nepal and try to make things better.
MIKE SPEAR: Welcome to Cause & Purpose, the show about the leaders, innovators, and change agents working on the front-lines to solve some of the world’s greatest social challenges.
I’m Mike Spear, and today’s guest is Maggie Doyne. Maggie is the founder and CEO of BlinkNow, a nonprofit organization that runs a school, a children’s home, a health clinic, and women’s center in the foothills of the Himalayas, in Surkhet, Nepal. The BlinkNow story began when Maggie, basically just taking a year between high school and college to travel, came face-to-face with the horrific aftermath of the Nepalese civil war.
At just 18 years old, Maggie crossed over the border between India and Nepal on foot, on a quest to help her friend Sunita reconnect with friends and family impacted by the war. What she discovered was hundreds of children, many of whom were orphans, forced into hard labor as the only means to feed their families. She instantly fell in love with the Nepalese community she found herself in, and with the help of Sunita, Sunita’s uncle Top, and the $5,000 she’d saved up from babysitting, she launched BlinkNow, and the rest is history.
MIKE SPEAR: Who is Maggie Doyne, and who, who was she like as a kid growing up where you, are you very engaged with social impact what were you like when you were younger?
MAGGIE DOYNE: To kind of describe who I am and who I was. I think it's important to like explain suburban New Jersey. We do, the girls have quite the reputation. So I grew up in this really suburban town, not much diversity, everybody commuted into New York city had corporate jobs. I went to a public school where from the time you're in seventh grade, they're like college, college, college, college, college. Where are you going when you get into college? It's posted like in the newspaper, like it's announced. And there was a lot of pride in our town around, like who got into the Ivy league and like the tiers and where you're applying. It's like what everyone asks when you're in the grocery store.
And at some point you're like, I don't want to go over there. My friend's house because their parents are going to grill me on where I'm applying. My mom was a nurse. My dad was a teacher. They fought to have us in this town for the good public schools and the soccer teams. And I'm one of three girls. We had a dog, I played soccer. I was a good student, just normal teenage girl, thinking that you work hard, you've been given a lot of opportunity, shoot for the stars, go to college and follow the dotted line. And that was, that was me. I had every opportunity and chance in the world really, to have a happy childhood, to be given a free public school education, to be surrounded by good teachers and coaches and mentors and everything is kind of like the definition of privilege and luck.
MIKE SPEAR: Absolutely. You'd expressed to me when we spoke last week and field felt very directed of like, here are the steps that you follow to be a successful human being. You'd express feeling a little bit trapped by that and kind of wanting to, to find your own path.
MAGGIE DOYNE: Yeah. At some point I think I started to question like, so is that it, like, I just go to college and then my destiny is made. I didn't really feel like I had any agency over it. It was just like, this is what's going to happen. And I never questioned it. And all of a sudden I was turning 18 and all my college applications were off. And I was just like, wait a second.I know nothing about who I am, what it is. I want to be what I want to do with my life. And I'm about to go spend like all my parents and my money for years to come and take loans out and just like, go figure this out at a university.
And I was just like, no. I think I need to do more. I think I need to see more. I want to learn more about myself. I want to figure out what my interests are. And then that led me to the decision to just take a gap year. There was nothing in me that was like, Oh, I'm going to go, you know, change the world. I was not woke at all. It was just like, okay, I have never really left New Jersey. I don't know what I want to do. I'm kind of burnt out from being this all achieving work, as hard as you can, dot all your I's and cross your T's girl. And I'm going to try to travel and there was gap year programs and I found one and it was awesome. And I loved it.
MIKE SPEAR: Tell me about the program. What was it, where did you go?
It was like, there was this program out of Princeton leap. Now it was lifelong education, alternatives and programs. And the initial semester is in the South Pacific and you've got 12 kids with their backpacks and you're, you know, scuba diving and learning how to surf and learning Buddhism on a Buddhist monastery and meditation and backpacking and outdoor survival skills. And a little bit of cultural immersion. You know, we stayed in an amazing Fijians fishermen's village and immersed ourselves in the culture there. It was just, there's so much beauty and learning that comes out of travel. Especially when, you know, you can draw a circle around your upbringing and I hadn't been exposed to much, and it just really opened my eyes. And I got a lot of passion back and I was excited and learning so many things and having so much fun. And that was that.
MIKE SPEAR: Do you have any like culture shock coming from Jersey and landing in the South Pacific?
MAGGIE DOYNE: Mostly my eyes were just wide open and I was so like, wow, the world is so big and I'm just a little teeny, tiny speck and all of this. And maybe that's just that age that you're in anyway. But all of a sudden there were just so many books I wanted to read and so much to learn and so many other cultures, and it was like a bubble broke. it just was like, Oh, there's so much to see and do and be. And I was awake, really awake and excited.
NARRATION: As part of the LEAP Program, Maggie and her cohort had the opportunity to intern with organizations in various regions they visited - she and a friend decided to intern together, and kind of on a whim, chose Northern India.
MAGGIE DOYNE: The program that we were placed in that was taking volunteers and needed help was called Ramana’s garden. And it was kind of model of the program was that there was a little cafe restaurants that generated income and the kids would intern there and there was a bakery and then it was in Rishikesh. So that was kind of where the yoga community was. So she was looking for volunteers to come live on site and help run the cafe and help like with maintenance and just things around basically like just free, low level labor. But it was on the facilities of us amazing school. And because of like the income and the outreach that this program did, they were doing all of these incredible things in the region and working with school kids.
And there was a huge Nepalese refugee community. And I was working with a lot of Nepali people. And so just through that experience, long story short, the director who was running the program, I kind of just like moved up in the ranks. Like I went from scrubbing dishes in the back to helping with morning assembly to doing checks that night to like being her right hand and helping her with accounting. And I just, she kinda like took me under her wing and I learned so much and I ended up extending and extending and staying longer. But then as we started working with Nepalese, you hear the stories and you're exposed to the news and it's right across the border. So you're seeing all these people and these kids come in and a lot of trauma from the war and intercepting from bad situations, whether it was trafficking or child labor. So I was seeing it really up close and personal, And all of a sudden it was just on the map for me. I couldn't have even, I didn't know what Nepal was, what the people were like, and it was living there and becoming so entrenched in that community. And in that conversation that I got really curious,
MIKE SPEAR: What was it about the Nepalese community that, you really related to it? I mean, every culture is slightly different. It has its own nuances. And I think most of us are naturally drawn to one or another. I'm just curious, what, what about the people you met and, and the cultural aspects really became passionate for you?
MAGGIE DOYNE: I felt that when the Nepalis flee India and come to this, it's a culture and a language and a country that's not their own. And they're a little bit misfits and there's still a caste system in India and they're kind of like the bottom of the barrel and they're misplaced from their home and their language and their culture and their people and their, a civil war, just it ravages villages, homes, families, communities. But also there was so much love for where they came from and so much pride. And at the same time, I think seeing the hardship and for me, it became really personal because I became friends like really, really close friends with this young girl Sunita, who is almost my age, a little bit younger.
And I guess we were both kind of going through a coming of age in a sense, like she left her rural village when she was eight and had all of these questions about where she came from and what was happening. And she really wanted to go back and kind of trace the footsteps of where she came from and find family and reconnect with her village. So initially the two of us are gonna go together. And because we knew so many kids and young people that were coming from this particular region, I just got curious about it, but there was a connection. Everybody falls in love with Nepal and Nepali people. They're warm and open and welcoming and hospitable and forgiving and kind and joyous. there's a reason why people who go to Nepal and talk about Nepal just absolutely fall in love.
And I think I got a glimmer and a taste of that and meeting people under really difficult circumstances, but that still had that love and pride. I didn't understand why people would leave their home and sleep on the side of the road under a piece of plastic. Like it was seeing the meaning and the life of a refugee up close and personal. It was so far from my own experience. And yet, you know, the people like just almost like accepted that this was their situation and were happy and trying to make the most of it in India. And I was kind of like, well, why what's going on?
MIKE SPEAR: It's hard to picture. As you said, if you don't see it personally it is hard to relate, but I think, everybody's story is a little bit unique. You're not going to capture the entire situation, but that's how you bring it home to folks.
MAGGIE DOYNE: Yeah.
MIKE SPEAR: What is your parents make of this? Were they supportive of this? How did it, how did you communicate what was going on back to them?
Well, so the plan was I'll do this and I'm going to come back to college. I'm going to defer and I'll, you know, I'll do this and then I'm going to reapply. I think they could see that I was like learning and growing. And there's so much that you get from having like a real life job in the fields. But then I went to Nepal and I really felt like at that time, I wanted to get to the source of the problem. And it was when I started to talk about moving to Nepal and kind of living there and extending it a little longer, that those conversations got really hard. My parents weren't like those parents that were like helicopter breathing down my neck, looking at all my report cards They were really loving and open a little bit hippie. They weren't like, you need to come home right now. but they were asking good questions. Like, what's your plan? What are you doing?
NARRATION: Keep in mind, this all took place around 2005 and 2006, towards the end of the Nepalese civil war - a period of extreme violence and political upheaval - more than 17,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands more were displaced internally. Maggie was still just a teenager when she began dealing with this humanitarian crisis head-on. How was that for you? Seems like it might have been a bit overwhelming...
MAGGIE DOYNE: Oh, there was just story after story. Basically people were just sending kids the border to get them out. A lot of the Maoist rebellion strategy was to recruit child soldiers And the tactic was to start in rural areas and take one child from every house. we were seeing people had lost parents and family in the ward and people forced to fight and kids just forced to leave because of the effects of poverty. So yeah, it was, it was very much a part of our everyday conversation when you're meeting someone and hearing that story. Just tragedy and but again, like love and pride in their country where they were coming from this yearning to go back and this hope for a future of peace. And when the war ended in 2005, 2006, people wanted to go home, you know, they wanted to get back home and they wanted to return to peace and normalcy because Nepal is a beautiful, peaceful place.
So tell me about that first trip that you took across the border. Take us there. What was it like as you, as you first started taking in what was going on in Nepal?
MAGGIE DOYNE: Well, it was physically really grueling. It was cold, but then there were mosquitoes biting. And eventually after two days, I think we made it up to the border, crossed over on a,, not an oxcart, but like a pony cart. Got through the border. And then you start a climb up into the Himalayan mountains and eventually the road ended. All we knew was that we had to like walk and walk for a really long time. And, you'd summit up one mountain that we think was the hardest mountain, the highest mountain you'd ever climbed. And then you'd look, and there was just like another one, another one, another one, another one. And people were just passing us with their goats and these big woven baskets. And it was hard.
The Himalayas are like nothing you've ever seen and those green foothills and the waters cutting through the mountains. And again, the people and the colors and the animals and, they're all subsistence farming. So there's this relationship to land and nature. And the outdoors. We get there after three days, we're exhausted and we're looking for kind of information on Sunita's extended family. And we found out that her house that had been taken over and converted during the Maoist rebellion. You’re a kid from Mendham, New Jersey, and you're watching your friend go through this, realizing that basically her family, everything that she knew was destroyed. It did something to me and to both of us.
We went and looked at the school that she would have gone to, and it was just ramshackle. Roof had been torn off the kids who didn't have books. Most kids couldn't go to school. Just the hard work of growing, everything that you consume, you want salts, you're carrying it three days in like we, did you want anything like sugar tea or something special? It's like, everything is what you grow. Or if you have any kind of pests come in, you're just not going to eat for days at a time. And, and then seeing the close knit community and nights dancing by the fire, but also hearing stories of the war and what people were up against and what had, had done to women and children and just how people had suffered was also really raw and real. So it was a really incredible powerful trip. Sunita got the answers that she was looking for. I think it was an important trip for her. It was an important trip for me. I remember having the sense that whole first trip, like, Oh, I want to do something here. I want to be here. I feel that this is the time to be in Nepal and try to make things better.
NARRATION: It wasn’t just Sunita’s own story that inspired her. The more time Maggie spent in Nepal, the more she became aware of how widespread the problems were, and what a toll the war had taken on children in particular.
I had witnessed like what was happening once kids flee and escape and get across the border in India. And then on the other hand in Nepal itself there were children by the side of this one particular river bed that we were walking across breaking rocks all day, every day there had started to become development, construction of roads and Nepal. And so kids were being recruited as young as four and five years old to work. I'd say it was kind of like that crossroads moment of, I wanna do something here and I want to start on this river bed. And also just like, what have we done? Like how, how have we come so far as a humanity as a world, but we still have this. We still have kids who are just losing their parents and getting trafficked across borders and being sold. I thought, no, I need to stare at this in the face and do something.
NARRATION: It was during this trip that Maggie met Sunita’s uncle Top, who eventually became her cofounder at BlinkNow.
So, yeah, We Travel was this incredible trip. I fell in love with Nepal and like, I want to go do something there told Pepin, this needs his uncle and had been one of those Nepalis that just was like, I want to go back. I want to do something. He'd also been an orphan really young, had a really hard life coming to India to work when he was 11 years old as a bus porter. So we just started putting our heads together, all of us as like a family. Okay. What are we going to do? And what do we need? And at the time there was a lot of conversation around the greatest equalizer, the greatest, like one defining thing you can do to change the trajectory of poverty and violence. And in families, generational poverty is school and education literacy. And so we were like, let's just start on this Riverbed and start enrolling kids into school.
NARRATION: Maggie and Top quickly realized though that the situation was a lot more complex than they’d originally thought - rebuilding the school was one thing, but they had to also deal with food insecurity, health, safety, basic housing - and replacing the income the children earned doing manual labor. Many of the children were orphans, having lost their families during the war. So Maggie and Top took the $5,000 Maggie had saved up from babysitting. They incorporated a nonprofit - not just for the school, but for a home the children could live in as well.
It was around this time that the media began to pick up on what Maggie was doing, and the story of BlinkNow. Maggie was featured in CosmoGirl, which came with a $20,000 prize. She was Glamour’s Woman of the Year and won the grand prize at the DoSomething Award. All of this led to a lot more funding than she was bringing in with her babysitting jobs, and Maggie and Top knew it was time to evolve the organization.
MAGGIE DOYNE: I think it started with like very organic troubleshooting and problem solving. So you'd be working with kids everyone was drinking dirty water and you're like, okay, well we need to work with water systems. And you know, if you're not going to live to the age of five because of an infectious disease as a vulnerable child or an orphan that's problem, number one, right. Number two, nutrition like food is so critical. Like it helps kids stay in school. You know, it's critical to your learning you know, social workers that we could have caseworkers like working on, you know, therapy and counseling and family development was really critical. It's not just learning basic literacy, there's this whole other picture of a whole child and this whole child principle and what a child needs to thrive and grow within a community because the community is important.
The family's important. And each, and every story was different, but you could see that there were these key, crucial elements that were needed and that led and helped us grow through our program. So the nutrition program was really important. We worked with sourcing from local farmers and that got us into farming, it's sustainability and raising animals, and then having a small medical clinic and the medical clinic, we're like, okay, we need counseling and reporting center for all of these cases that we're dealing with and anything from trafficking to child, marriage which was so prevalent. And then, and then you kind of build from there. We started a soccer team and after school program with arts and we put on school plays and theater in the community.
Eventually we realized that women were like really critical piece to the puzzle. And we were taking in orphans, but also putting kids into school. And we realized that women were the caregivers, women were the ones that were determining the life at home and 99% of the time you want to keep a child within their home and within their culture and their family. So we created a women's center, I think, after losing like four or five women in the community to suicide. Yeah, it was very organic. And then we really beefed it up into a strategic plan and started working with partners and collaborators. We built up our board and was critical. We created a small little us team and chapter New Jersey where I was from and got incubated by the community foundation of New Jersey. So it's like 10 years of growth and development and learning and following best practices. And Nepal was changing, you know, the, the development sector as a whole, the nonprofit industry is changing. It's evolving, it's growing. And we came along for the ride and learned everything we could and brought on everyone we could to help us.
So your team is what now? 120 or so?
Yeah. 120 between Nepal and the US I think 10 of us are international and the rest are Nepali.
What was that like, kind of going from you and Top to building a team like that, you know, how did you create the shared vision with, with the staff and the, the folks who were working hands on and how did you, you know, create the culture that you wanted?
I think it was really important in the bringing on of folks. Like we started, we were paying like 2000 rupees a month. We, you know, we weren't like a well paying - we were just so small. So it was really critical that people who came were there because they really wanted to be there. I looked at our team one day and I realized like, Oh my gosh, so many of these people were either refugees in India, or they had lost their parents really young and had really hard, hard life. But then we started like really also looking for talents and folks that were education experts and curriculum development experts and early childhood specialists. I mean, at some point in your maturity, you, you take that turning point and it's such a gift because it's the people who make up the organization. So we hire widows and women who need work whenever we can. And we also have incredible principal and incredible team of social workers who have sometimes come from Katmandu or a counselor groundskeepers, a bus driver. It makes me really proud because employment is such an amazing gift and seeing all of those families and helping build up a community and economy and being one of the biggest employment providers in the region was, was exciting and important.
Yeah. I think that's a great segue actually. So how, how are you thinking about impact and measuring that and reporting on it at this point?
There's built in assessments and that was, that was the hard thing. There's like this thing called the SLC exam and the DLE exam and your kids have to really perform it's very South Asian in the sense that like you don't perform, you're not going further and it's very rote based. So we were trying to be this like very alternative hands-on place based learning state of the art kids sitting at circular tables and nature integration. But also, we realized that like our kids need to perform. Teachers are the critical piece of any puzzle and our teachers are so flipping amazing. And a lot of women teachers, a lot of really good teacher trainer named Jayden who came in a really good principal and the kids just started like turning heads.
They're up there with like the army school and the fancy private schools in the region. And then we were contenders and we built in benchmarking. And the kids like were speaking for themselves. All of a sudden they were winning soccer tournaments and poetry competitions and dance competitions. And my daughter won the chess competition. We created this culture. Like, you have a chance, now, go for it. They're getting a full ride from the time they're four years old till the time they're in college and like high code of ethics. It's really hard to get into the school. You have to present death certificates. And we do home visits. We work with social workers with, we work with the government. So it's a very select group of kids that's getting in. And our whole sort M.O. is that we transformed that street child into a leader that's winning the chess competition. I think we both Top and I are competitive in that sense of like, if we're going to do this, we're going to go all out. And this is going to be the best darn school you've ever seen. Our kids are going to be amazing. We just like believed in them and it's called Kopila, which is where children bloom.
When you report specific metrics like to your board or to donors and folks, you know, what, what are you reporting? And, I'm curious, like how many kids have you graduated? What are they doing now?
Oh, really good question. Yeah, we've graduated almost 150 kids. We track them very closely through our futures program, which is alumni. They get a lot of hand holding and support and that transition to adulthood. And yeah, they're becoming school principals and medical school. A lot of them are in Nepal continuing higher education with scholarships. We report on obviously them going to these elite colleges and what their grades are and their attendance records and little benchmarking things, but also on child marriage. We've had our losses when it comes to really hard things like child-marriage. We want to look at that and we don't have a big population. We're very like targeted group childhood all the way into early adulthood.
We kind of like to meet kids where they're at and success for some children could mean just like making it to eighth grade and then going on to vocational path and becoming a seamstress or a hairdresser a farmer that's using sustainable agriculture, so it's different for everyone. A lot of times in the population we're working with, it's like, don't, you know, stay where you are and stay alive and stay healthy and stay well. So it's all kind of metrics from wellness and health and nutrition and family development, looking at the family as a whole family income, family stability, all the way to our kids that are getting recruited to go to college in the U.S.
Yeah, you alluded to something interesting in there that I think isn't really talked about enough in the social sector. How do you define your target population? Who's in, who's out and why do you define them using that criteria?
That's such a hard question. We always ask like, well, what is success? Cause we're like, what is quality? Like, we'll be sitting in these like strategic sessions. What does quality mean? Like how do you determine what quality is, safety and security and what is, you know, is it just test scores? And is it just out, like, how do you measure an outcome? To be honest, like we're always having those discussions and trying to figure it out. When we start working with these kids, one of the determining success factors is, and I'm very sad to say this it's early intervention. You need to get a child before they've missed their critical learning periods. Everything we know about childhood development tells us sadly in our foster care system and orphan care and working with vulnerable children that you have to interfere and intervene as early as possible. Because once you miss that critical learning period nutrition, the risks just increase and increase as the child gets older. So a lot of our model works with that early intervention. We're looking for the most vulnerable four and five year olds or three and four year olds. Then the sky is the limit because you can hit all of those learning benchmarks and get that whole package and everything that a child needs not to say, it's impossible when you have an eight or nine or a 10 year old, we take in those cases. But the earlier you can intervene the better the outcome from what I've seen. And I hate saying that, but it's true.
What happens when you get someone showing up or as a referral or something that's like not a good fit?
We have a special needs program and a learning lab. That's been really good. An, an, a program for kids who did, you know, were late enrollment for various reasons. The hardest thing is that when you're looking at admissions for five year olds and four year olds, they're all going to be a good fit, unless you have a serious disability, like blindness or a child's deaf. Once you get a pool of kids who meet all of these, you know, 10 different criteria and a selection mini doing home visits and interviews, at some point, you're just choosing the neediest, like, who do we think is going to need this intervention more than anyone else we're looking at? Just to apply into the program, you have to be an orphan. We're able to choose like the neediest of the needy, but at some point your shortlist gets down to 40-50 kids, and then that's when it gets hard, you start looking at gender ethnicity. What is the child's caste to kind of give that scholarship to the kid that's going to need it the most.
It seems like there's a lot of emotional components to this, but it does seem to me like, when it comes down to brass tacks, you are making an expected value calculation,trying to take the kids that you can make the biggest difference in their lives.
We've talked about, do we open up and give out talent scholarships and merit scholarships, but every four year old has potential, l we have a team of social workers and experts. It's not rocket science. Like you give a child love and loving teachers, whole nutritious food, and the beautiful, all in all comprehensive curriculum and an after school program and a family counselor and home visits, you know, bring the family in. You can almost do anything. These children have so much potential. Every child wants to learn and go to school. I've had kids that I thought there is no way this kid's impossible. He's too damaged. She's been through too much. why did I do this? Why did I bring him into our family? It's just messing everything up. He's a disaster. It's a mess. He's not going to get better. I've had those thoughts. And every time I'm surprised, I'm like, Oh my gosh, that kid's frickin graduating top of his class. Look at him. He's like the most loving, perfect child. I can't believe who he is. Like, it's magical.
I'm curious. So this is maybe a little harder question. I think it's something nonprofits often don't like to talk about, but I think is a missing an important part of the conversation. Can you share some mistakes you made or things that didn't go the way you wanted them to, and kind of how you, you know, what you learned, how you adapted and grew beyond it.
MAGGIE DOYNE : Where do you start?
MIKE SPEAR: We've all done it. I mean, it's totally fine, but, for some reason, it's a little taboo in the social sector.
It can be taboo to talk about your mistakes. I would say number one, I was talking about the thing that made us so special of like being all organic and like, okay. This step and I'll take this step. I love that about us too, but it was just like, there was no real, like good planning. We were just like, okay, now we're going to do this. And now we're going to do that without necessarily putting in like the time to like really deeply like research it and think it through, I think I suffer a little bit from like some impatience and like, okay, like just do it, make it happen. Boom. Like it needs to be done, get it done. And so, like, we were building a green school and I wanted the school to be like the greenest, most sustainable school in the world. And I wanted to build it out of rammed earth because our architect Pavel really convinced me that this was like an incredible material. And that school took us seven years to build because I wanted it to be like the greenest and the most sustainable. And just, it was this ongoing project of just like, okay, go, go, go, go do it. It's going to cost this much. And it's going to be this square footage. Just figure it out as you go along. And I have the theme in my life of like making, making it before the blueprints there. And there is magic to it. You could argue that, well, the other side of doing things where you have like proposals and permissions and all of this bureaucracy and red tape is also really hard, seven or eight years in, I needed to be like, okay, I need a really robust plan.
And it took me a long time now. And I tell you that story of like, then we realized we needed to hire experts. Well, that was learning that and making mistakes that got me to that place of like, no, I need the professional social worker that can help me with this. And I need to have the foresight to like, bring on someone with HR experience. And it took me a really long time, I think initially Top and I were like, Oh, we can do it. We'll figure it out. We'll, we'll find the right people. But at some point you need also like really have a plan and hire the right people.
Being a startup, it just takes a while. With a previous guest, we talked a lot about human centered design, which is that it's an iterative process. You were, you were in the community figuring out what they need and that's, you know, and, and moving on from there. I mean, certainly you want to make sure that you're not doing any harm or at least minimizing the harm that you're doing, but, I think it's a very natural evolution, especially at a startup.
Totally. It has worked for us. Like that style of just like, we don't have a lot of money. Let's use what we have, make it stretch as far as, and go, every dollar counts, like figure it out. If you make a mistake, scratch it over. And we do it, it worked for us. It's what's gotten us where we were, I was 19 with $5,000 and a cofounder with a fourth grade education, but had lived this life and we were like, we're going to figure this out with the people. Like I said, I love that about us. There are times where I'm just like, Oh, you know, you cringe a little. Initially, the women's center, we're like, we put it up above my bedroom. We just like put up some bricks and just did it really quick. You can always do more. I would say my other mistake and it wasn't necessarily like a mistake. Like I wasn't like conscientiously doing it to create harm, but Top and I like Top very like the guy on the ground in Nepal making it work and like the problem solver. And I was like the forefront and the face. And we liked that. Like, we continue. That's like how we work. But all of these years later, I feel sometimes like, it became too much of like the Maggie Doyne founder story. I mean, I don't have serious regrets. Like, of course in every interview you're like, yeah, but there's this whole team of people around me surrounding me at every second and making every decision and Top’s there.
But in those initial years, it kind of like perpetuate a little bit of like white girl saviorism. I regret that. I've learned a lot since, and I've done a lot of work and I kind of wish I had like forced it a little more like, you know, CNN Heroes, Top was there. And I was the one that got up on stage because it was, you could only one CNN Hero and my name got put forward. The camera was on him too, but he should have been up there on stage. we went with it, like, it was an agreement that we had and he's loud and he's since won so many Nepal awards and it's the way that we operated best and like our true equal partnership. And like, I speak more English and I write, I do a lot of the writing and the speaking, and he's more of like the tactile on the ground with the Nepalis in there, but we talk every day and we play off of each other's strengths.
And I think sometimes looking back at those stories from the early days, I want to gag a little bit just cause it's like CosmoGirl, but then there's like this whole group of Nepali people, where are they? Where are all the characters I wasn't raising all of those kids alone. I'm still not there's other house parents there. Sometimes I think you get a little swept away, either in an ego in just like, Oh, this is working. So let's just keep going. And we just got a piece in glamour and $10,000 just came in and now we're going to go like, cause you need resources at the same time, but you know, looking back and kind of knowing what I know now about privilege and race and the privileges of being white. I wish like he had been, our whole team had kind of been on the forefront, but again, like, I don't know how we would have changed that. And it, that was the story that we put out and it works. It's hard to talk about.
It's sensitive. Cause you don't want to be like the white savior or whatever cliche, there are ways to do that in a way and it's damaging, but what are you supposed to do when you show up in these areas? You know, to a certain extent, like, you're damned if you do, you're damned, if you don't like, you're going to be seen that way, even if that's not your intention just by taking action and being of that background.
Yeah. And I, I think I did, I did a lot of things, right. Like I learned the language and I, like, I was so completely immersed. I definitely didn't drop in, was like, okay, everybody roll up your sleeves. We're going to make this America. Like it wasn't like I had read enough and studied enough and had enough mentorship to kind of know, but you still have those learning moments of like, how can I do this better? There are some things like, okay, it's like menstruation and Nepal. Like when you're menstruating as a woman in Nepal, you're supposed to sleep in a shed. That's part of the culture. As a young woman, you sleep in the shed and that's chhaupadi. And as a foreigner or an outsider coming in, I'm looking at that being like, I can't have young girls go, I'm not going to sleep in a shed when I had my period because I'm tainted no, that's wrong.
And I stand against it and this and that. And there's like some certain tact that you need to navigate these deep and embedded cultural situations. And there are some things that you want to fight for like a 13 year old, getting married or having to drink cow urine when you're on your period and not be able to go to school. And there's other things that you accept and embrace and you see the beauty and the culture, and sometimes walking that line and knowing I'm an outsider and I have to accept this or no, this is something that we actively want to change is really critical and Top and our team really helped me with that. And having a board helped me with that, but I look back and I'm like, Oh, maybe I shouldn't have fought that fight. Or maybe I should have spoken up more there, but you learn. And again, I say this, all nonprofit leaders just have, have a full team around you and people to tell you like it is. And yeah. Just stay humble in all of it and stay ready to learn and like ready to fall. Cause yeah, we all make mistakes.
If you had followed the more traditional path and like ended up in college, maybe grad school, I don't know, gotten a job instead of this, and then followed the same path. Maybe 10 years later. Do you think you would have engaged with it the same way? Or was there, were there advantages to being not even an experience to a degree?
I think there are advantages. It's just what happened and it's hard to imagine a different world, but I do know being 33 now that, once you go to college and yes, there, I think there's so much to be said for degrees and development and we need it. We need these experts. We need people testing. And so much of what I learned is in the sector that went and got really good degrees and did PhDs in the field, But there's something to be said for like, don't wait like our world, can't wait for us to get a fancy degree and meet the right person and have all the money in the world to give back, what if we just started where we are with what we have and tried to make an impact. And I think we need more of that. What would I have done with all of those college loans? You can't go out and like travel when you're $200,000 in college debt, there's something really practical like, Oh, I probably would have needed to get a job and like pay off my loans. And it could have been at a bank or at a newspaper or working for CosmoGirl, who knows, but I would have become, I don't know what I would have studied or gotten my liberal arts degree in, but there's, there is a trap when you, when you have a life established somewhere. And I think there was something in me being young and no strings attached and free and having that powerful rite of passage to think like, what's going to be my impact in the world and what it, what can I do to make this place better?
That was powerful. And it did something and I don't regret it. And thank goodness for those development PhDs who were there to guide me along the way. Cause I needed them. I needed every lawyer on my board and every finance like everybody, that's the beauty of BlinkNow I think like I don't, I don't like the Wall Street guys on my board and he's my chair and he's incredible. And you can find those folks too. And I think the world needs everybody, but I just often think there is a trap of like college, college, college, then you get a job and then you have to meet someone. And then especially a woman, you get married and you look a certain way and then you have kids and a mortgage and this and that. And all of a sudden, you're not thinking as much like, okay, how can I give back? How can I make an impact? So it really was a privilege. It was a privilege to like be out and free and thinking like, how do I make a dent on this river bed?
There's a middle ground, right? You don't want to go in blind or completely ignorant of development strategy or the situation or best practices. But, if you're resourceful, you know, they're, they're non traditional ways of getting a great education. I think that's been a trend for years where people are trying to look for alternatives to the student loan university thing. There's so much learning online now, but especially now with COVID as now we really have to think our education system.
It's going to be interesting, right? Like, are people still going to pay $70,000 to go to school online at one of these elite universities? And I do think that education is not this like one spectrum, one path like you and I are learning right now from each other where we listen, we both love podcasts. Like I've gotten so much from podcasts and books and online courses. Like your education can be whatever it wants to be. And I just often caution folks from like, thinking that it's a dotted line where you have to pay $70,000 a year. I think that's what I found from myself. You can find your own professors and teachers and mentors, if you're hungry and you want to learn and you're safe and educated and free and empowered enough, like you can do anything.
I think just because somebody, somebody in this situation, like you found yourself in where they're having a unique experience and they see the need, see something that they want to become active in a change and they don't necessarily have that background. There are ways to figure out how to do that. Well, I think at this point,
Yeah, but I often think like, well, what's my advice to people. Like I tell anyone else to do this. Would I be like, just go out and find something? And I think, yes, like, you know, if you're wary and you're conscious and you're finding a team of people and you have a passion, like that's what, like we have to get ourselves out of this mess somehow. Like we need people who care about the bees and the whales and plastic and the oceans. And like what a gift, if you can work on something like that, that you love and change the world and make something better for even one child, it matters like it's moving the needle forward and we need more of that.
It's okay to start from wherever you are just start. Like don't feel intimidated to take action on something just because you don't have experience with it.
Yeah. I often think, I think you and I talked about this before, but like people that say, well, one day I'll be rich and I'll give away a lot of money. It's kind of like, well, how rich you become a $999,999 millionaire, then? My most powerful donors, the people who support us are like waitresses who donate their tips are an Uber driver that donates two rides from the day. Everybody can do something or give time or give a little piece and everyone can recycle and reuse their cup. And it just takes a lot of us doing a lot of small actions. So I think, yeah, we have to be careful of like, just putting it off forever. I think that's our human condition, right. Just like whatever's in front of us.
Yeah, the world can't wait, the problems are too immediate,
Especially right now. Doesn't it feel like the apocalypse a little bit.
I guess, two questions kind of come out of this. Let's give them one at a time. So you, you mentioned like the importance of the server giving tips and the Uber driver and some of these smaller donors, which, which can be, you know, I think they're super important, but I know that they can often be overlooked by organizations, especially if they're more traditional philanthropy based. How do you guys think about these grassroots donors that you have, how do you engage with them? How do you make sure that they're getting what they want out of their interaction with the BlinkNow, even though they've only, you know, maybe given five or 10 bucks.
Yeah. The challenge is that, our scope of work is if you're in the States, it's 8,000 miles away. If you're in Kathmandu, it's a 20 hour bus ride away. So how do you make it real for people and being able to see a child get their first pair of soccer cleats, or like eat a meal when they haven't eaten for three days, it's probably the most powerful feeling you'll ever feel on this earth. Like that, that feeling of giving, seeing a child come to school and be safe or saved from a child marriage, or like this is life changing shit. Like it's crazy amazing, but we get to feel it. Cause we're there. Our Nepali team, our social workers, our home caregivers, the people in involved in the cases, but that donor giving the $5 a month, doesn't get that warm and fuzzy feeling.
We can send a picture. So for us, and Ashley is our director of development and our team and our board, it's like, how do we make this experience real without violating the rights of the child and telling their whole story? Like, how do we do this ethically? We've leveraged social media Instagram, Facebook, like having the kids, you see it and you feel it and you feel like you're there as it's really important. Our donor relationships, like we're, we're small enough that like every single donor matters, we know who they are. We know their names. We're like constantly like Ashley are texting. It was, did you see that? Like we got $2,400 this week. And that that's real for us, you know, like we're jumping up and down, and then you're on the ground. You feel it. So just making that experience, real, trying to tell the story and explain to people how vitally important and life changing it is and showing and not telling, we try not to like guilt trip people. Like you have everything you should. It's just really like, Hey, you have a powerful opportunity to make an impact and change someone's life. What Ashley brought on board to us was our monthly giving program. And I always tell other nonprofits, if you don't have one, get one like tomorrow.
Well, why, you know, flesh, because I agree with you, I'm a big proponent of those, but like what's, what's the difference that's made for BlinkNow.
So for a small organization like us, we have maybe like 20 donors giving the big bucks and we love those people. They're like our best friends. They're on our board. I call them on the regular. I mean, but how many people is that, like the average you and I, millennial, someone just starting out in their career on their first job, the average person, they can wrap their hands and their brain around the Netflix subscription. Oh, I pay this much for Netflix or, I'm probably spending too much on coffee out. I pray that like everybody gets a big money bomb dropped and big philanthropic dollars are there, but there's incredible good causes. And there's so many foundations and everybody has their own passion. And so it's finding like the right match and there's so much to care about.
So, and there's only so many people that can write that really, truly big influential check. And there's a lot more of us who can say, you know what? I can give $10 a month. I can do $20. I can do $30. I can not go out one night a week for dinner. And so I just, because then the founding story, every $5 mattered that continues today, Top and I will like be at a fruit stand, just like negotiating over the know, like give us the daily rate. And probably because of our babysitting, my babysitting background and his background as a Porter, like carrying bags for 10 cents. Like we just, I think it's really in our ethos that it matters. And when I read through our Classy donor reports, it's just like, these are people, these are like Nepalese people from around the world. This is somebody who like, just, I've never, I've tried to never lose sight of a $20 donation looking back at like that first envelope, that first yard sale selling a dog lease for 25 cents. Like I just never want to lose it because it matters. 25 cents is a meal for a child that hasn’t eaten and it's so like, money is powerful when used in channel properly, it can change a life so
Well, and just the $2,400, you mentioned I mean that's two years for a child, right?
Yeah. And making it real, like we're really good at like, let's take all of our budget and make it real to people and give it bite-size, you know, like what's free, like everybody's in a different situation, has a different financial portfolio. And you could be sitting across from a multimillionaire, it's like about finding what's important to them to like, what do you care about? And like, you might be sustainability and you could do a cow or like, or it might be a year of education or maybe you were a nurse and you want to fund a nursing scholarship or so it's really like, I don't ever want giving to be like a guilt trippy thing. I want it to be like, this is so cool. Look at what you did. I want people to have that feeling that I had when Hema went to school, it was just like, this is addicting. I want to do this forever. Like, this is fun. Look at that. My greatest wish in the world would be that everyone has that feeling. Cause that feeling is it's, it's what we live for. There's nothing better than seeing somebody life transformed because like that's what we're here for to take care of each other and support each other and lift each other up.
Yeah. just real quick, ballpark, how many monthly donors do you think you have at this point? Give or take a thousand thousand monthly donors, average of how much does it bring in each one?
It probably brings in, Oh my gosh. I should know the exact figure, about 12 to $15,000 a month. Every single month. Yeah.
How impactful has that been for you guys? Just to have that, to be able to count that revenue and not have to go chase it down every time
We tell our root supporters that like, they're our bread and butter, they're our family. Just to be able to rely on them and we send them newsletters and I try to write to each of them and we, you know, we'll try to meet them for lunch when, when we're so small, but we, yeah. We try to make it really personal and let people know what it means. Yeah. That's huge.
In terms of your ability to grow though, like that, that pays for your teachers, I assume like in large part.
Exactly. It could be anything, right. Like something could break and you're like, okay, I know we're going to be able to cover that bill or, it's been critical.
You were in Nepal when COVID hit, what was that like? I know you were there for, for a while, cause it was hard to travel. What was the impact that COVID has had on, on your community in Nepal and, and on BlinkNow in general? How are you guys adapting to it?
Thanks for talking about that. When COVID hit, we had all these plans, just like everyone else. We would have this small window where our biggest supporters come and they come to our programs and all of a sudden that was off. All of a sudden our programs had to close down. There was a lot of fear and confusion about like, what does this mean? Donors start emailing that they're losing their jobs. And we looked at our budget and we cut 30%.
Where do those cuts come from?
Well, some of them were easy, like travel and cause we're all just staying home. But we took some programmatic cuts, any kind of software for case management, or nothing didn't get cut. We started to open up the food bank, but then you're like, okay, well we're cutting everything. How can we like start making sure that people are fed and kept safe? And we had to pivot. Keep our kids safe when they're not coming to school? So everything just changed our women's center, everything changed. And we had to move to like a remote model and a country without internet and power. Like we can't just like change over to online learning. But again, we figured it out and we, our social workers working around the clock. Our health and wellness team teachers started making calls, doing distance home visits. We started doing food drops. We opened the government food bank. We started working with the government because we're so close to community, I feel like we're really tapped into what's happening. So we started liaison with the government and just being a voice, connecting to bigger aid organizations.
And at that point we kind of went from like, Oh my gosh, this is really scary for us as a nonprofit, do we furlough? Do we stop paying people? We can't run programs to like, we need to save as many lives as possible and feed as many people as possible. We need to tell that story. And when we did that, people responded and it was kindness and generosity. And those roots givers gave an extra gift and donors stepped up and people who had anything, people that got that check from the government just handed it right over to us. And in Nepali influencers came forward and we created like a movement around changing stigma and raising awareness on migrant food and hunger crisis and quarantined centers.
So it went from like us, how are we going to survive this to like as a collective whole and a country and a humanity and a region, what do we do? We're nervous about what it means for our children and our community and people who are already like on the brink and also nervous about what it means for this industry as a whole.
You focused on a very specific region. And you mentioned actually not having any ambitions to expand directly beyond that, which I think is somewhat unique. But that you are open to sort of sharing what you've learned and, and empowering other organizations to kind of replicate what you've done in their own, you know, target markets, target communities. Can you talk a little bit about, about that vision and kind of how you plan to execute on that?
Yeah. So the last and final goal of our strategic plan is inspiring others. And as we've kind of grown and developed and like learned a lot and made our mistakes, there's been a lot of space for like talking and sharing and modeling and like more partnership. And I think it's something that's lacking in this space, in the field in general, just like, how can we learn from each other? How can we improve best practices? And so we've been taking in like lots of just folks under our wing and being like, okay, this is how you do that. And Oh, we made this mistake too. And here, like, let us help you develop, you know, your monthly giving program or here's your women's center curriculum. We grabbed from this. And, Oh, we learned this along the way. So even in just building that school that took us seven years, it did turn out to be this beautiful green dream off the grid school and through all of those learnings, like we can kind of teach other people, okay, this is how you create a solar unit and the solar cooker and rainwater harvest.
So again, going back to that initial principle that we're talking about about this field in general, lacking like quality and best practices and how do we kind of share and kind of improve the standards. I feel like there's a lot of space for that right now in the, for-purpose nonprofit development field in general, just how do we work together? How do we all improve? It's sad because, because we're so under resourced as an industry, it doesn't always allow for time to be like, okay, what are you doing? Let's all get together and talk about it. And I want to see us all evolve and become that as a field, like how do we, how do we do better?
How can we do this more efficiently, quicker? Because we're in such a bad situation, we don't have time to mess around, like we need unite and work together and get some of the stuff figured out as soon as possible. So we've kind of found that in our little niche of orphan care child-rearing and school and women's center and some of the green work that we do and very community based and focused. And in that model, if you do just want to draw a little circle around a specific region and chip away at it, that we do feel like we have something to teach and to inspire.
Awesome. So, a few quick questions as we wrap up. Outside of what you're currently working on, what do you think the most important cause for human humanity to tackle is, and why?
I'd say the environment. I had this awakening when I was raising kids and we were like, okay, what do we do next? Okay. Women, like, let's make sure we support the caregivers, clean water like immunizations and soccer program. And then at some point you're like taking your kids to the river on a camping trip and it's filled with plastic and like the trees are all being cut down and you're just like, what if we're trying to create the world for them to live in that's better and every opportunity, but what if there is no world? I don't know about you, but I have like some serious environmental anxiety right now.
Yeah. I would agree for me, education and social justice and mental health are all very important, but the existential threat to me is really the environmental stuff. I started to becoming sensitive to it. You know, I love the ocean. I love wild animals and seeing the impact on them. And then I, you know, when you start getting into displaced people due to climate yeah, and we haven't, we haven't been the best custodians of the earth.
The poor and the vulnerable and those people up against social justice. They're the ones that are impacted the most. Like people living completely off the grid, subsistence farming on their Himalayan mountain, just trying to raise a family and their animals. They're the ones that are affected the most by those Himalayan Springs melting from global warming. And you realize like so much of this is environmental.
I think even living, in the Western world, you're in Canada, I'm in California. The West coast is burning right now. It is on fire. But even myself, like the air started getting bad in San Diego. And I took off to Vegas for a week to get into fresh air. The wildfires are obviously connected to climate and they're affecting directly many people here, but people here have options. You know, I don't, I don't know what you're going to do in Micronesia when the sea level rises or you can no longer grow rice in certain regions that depend on it.
It's really true. How do we address it? Like, how do we, like, what do you do, where do you start beyond, like, we put solar panels on our roof and we're teaching the kids to be plastic free, but like, it's just seems like there has to be such a major overhaul. And it's again, I know we need to look at the the small problems, but when you're, when you and I are in North America, breathing in smoke, it gets really flippant. Scary. Yeah.
It'd be some hard choices. When you sort of are ready for retirement and, and ready to pass the baton, what, looking back on your career and your life in social impact, what will you hope to have accomplished in that career?
If I live enough, if I live long enough to get to see my children and my children's children and have them go and do things in the world and for other people and help create this ripple of change. I always say like when I'm old and gray and on my little rocking chair on the front porch, like that my grandchildren and great grandchildren would look at me and be like, did that really happen? Like where people really hungry, did kids really not even get to go to school? Like, was the world on fire? Like I'd love for us to like, all really believe that this is possible because we know they are now, like, we know that we can eradicate world hunger. We know that we can move the needle forward. We know that every child should be able to go to primary school, but like, can we do it in our lifetime? Can we make it so that every child has like a fighting chance that would be the ultimate. And just kind of like sitting around with all my kids and grandkids and being surrounded by them and seeing all the things that they do and what they become would be, I think that would be the definition of a happy life and feeling like I did something.
Powerful. So, instead of, I had to walk uphill both ways to, to work that our grandparents, like, you know, when I was younger, people didn't have enough food or water or education.
Yeah. I mean, think about it. Like we kind of look back on some of those ages really that, that happened. Did that really happen? Like it's not impossible to envision a time where they look back at us in 2020, like that really went down like, Oh my God, how did that happen? Really? Like what, what did it take for people to realize it's not complicated to balance the scales a little more? In my younger years I thought like, Oh, this is totally possible. This is easy. We can do this. I think right now I'm a little like, Oh, is it going to happen?
Well, it won't if people don't, you know, more people don't get involved and start making sacrifices and harder choices. And stepping up when you see a problem and don't know how to solve it, you know, instead of letting that deter you, figure it, figure it out as you did. What's next for BlinkNow. And what can anybody listening to this podcast do to support your work?
Next for blink, now we need more space for our growing children's home. We filled up every bedroom, everything just like we just have the kids coming in all the time. So we're, we're trying to grow and expand within, within our home. Also just survive this year with COVID, continue to be who we are, continue to be a leader and a teacher, and for people to follow along, we're BlinkNow.org, we're all over social media, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram become a roots member. Check us out, share the story. We'd love for you to follow along.
I think we’ll leave it there for today. Thank you for listening, and a big Thank You to Maggie for sharing her time and her stories with us. . Thank YOU for listening, and Becky, so awesome to catch up and hear your stories. If you want to learn more about BlinkNow, you can visit their website at www.blinknow.org, and on our own website, at Cause and Purpose.com.
Our conversation with Maggie ran for nearly 2 hours, and she’s got a lot of great stories that didn’t quite make it into the finished episode. We’ll be releasing some of them, along with additional content from all our past episodes in the months ahead.
Cause & Purpose is a production of Moonshot.co. On behalf of myself, Maggie Doyne, and our entire team, we thank you for listening, and look forward to speaking with you again soon.
MIKE SPEAR (00:40:01):
Okay. So you've got this smaller organization. Now you mentioned that at one point, you know, you've got some media coverage and the story kind of started to go viral. How did that play out? And what, what role did that play in your, your success at the organization?
MAGGIE DOYNE (00:40:15):
Yeah, the magazine was CosmoGirl and it was looking for like young. You can just see the ad. I feel like now, like a young women trying to, well, young girls trying to make a difference in their world or their communities and the world. And a friend actually sent in like my photo and a little blurb and sure enough, I got this call and my little Nepal Nokia flip phone, and it was a woman named Rachel from CosmoGirl magazine. And she told me that I'd been selected as Cosmo girl of the year. And then it got even better. Cause they were going to whisk me away into New York city from Maybelline makeover. It was Maybelline
MIKE SPEAR (00:40:57):
That must've been a surreal moment sitting in Nepal and talking about makeup.
MAGGIE DOYNE (00:41:01):
Oh yeah. I always say like I had laced in my hair. I was just like grappling with how we were going to pay how we were going to get water. Like we're carrying water from the mountain side and buckets and get just, we live on two different planets. Like we were like, okay, just two very different realities. And Rachel's like, you, it gets even better. You get $20,000. So in my head, I'm just like, we're going to dig a well, I'm going to build more bedrooms. I'm going to paint the walls. Like thinking about all the things. Cause remember I was babysitting for like $10 an hour $20,000. I felt like I won the lottery. Like I just, I couldn't believe it. And then when she told me about the make-over, I was kinda like, Oh, interesting, interesting. That it gets better than $20,000. Cause I can't imagine anything better than $20,000. Yeah.
MIKE SPEAR (00:41:59):
So that that's sort of helping you guys go by her a little bit and did that lead to additional funding and support?
MAGGIE DOYNE (00:42:05):
Oh yeah. So I had this little like blog cause it was the two thousands and everybody had a blog. Right. And I, and I remember the day that that article came out and I'd kind of been like, poo-pooing it a little bit and had to put on fake eyelashes and all this makeup. And I just couldn't believe it, our web, that little blog and website just shut down and young people started emailing. And I just realized at that time, I think it was a story that people needed just, you can do something and we can make this world better. And it was with my babysitting money and the local people and Top and yeah, it was a really powerful moment. And then it kind of yet set off like a chain of events time for kids picked up the story and the do something awards happen. I got invited to apply for a do something award. And that kind of brought me into a world when the opportunities where our story was on the back of the Doritos bag, the cool ranch flavor.
MAGGIE DOYNE (00:43:06):
My grandma's like going to Walmart and like turning over all the bags with my picture on it. And and yeah, it was like young, 20 year old, young, 22 year old, young, 23 year old adopts, 15 kids and 16 kids. And our family was also growing like, you know, one by one, we were taking a few kids each year and becoming a family and enrolling kids into school. And I eventually became glamour woman of the year. So you go from cosmic girl to glamour woman. I got really lucky. Like I had no PR person. I mean we had, no, it was just, it was just us in Nepal doing our thing with our heads down and doing the work and passionate about our little patch, like our little garden patch and, and here it was the press for picking it up. And ultimately Nick Christoff wrote a big cover story for the New York times and sent a photographer out to capture, you know, this beautiful cover photo. And yeah, it was, it showed the power, the power of press and communications. And that story
MIKE SPEAR (00:44:14):
You had mentioned also that it might've been something unique about that time and place that allowed for that sort of coverage. But yeah,
MAGGIE DOYNE (00:44:21):
I mean, well maybe, but
MIKE SPEAR (00:44:24):
There's something about the authenticity of what you're doing and, and the story that just makes it compelling and something that people want to relate to.
MAGGIE DOYNE (00:44:33):
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Maggie Doyne is the founder and CEO of the BlinkNow Foundation. Maggie is originally from New Jersey and has dedicated the last 12+ years of her life to educating children and empowering women. She was the recipient of the 2015 CNN Hero Award and her work has been recognized by the Dalai Lama, Elizabeth Gilbert, Nick Kristof, Katie Couric, and more. And, while her work is focused on Nepal, she speaks all over the world in the hopes of inspiring others to start projects that will generate positive change in our world.
As a teenager growing up in New Jersey, Maggie Doyne looked ahead to a future already written - college, career, student loans - and realized there must be more out there. During a gap year spent traveling in Southeast Asia, Maggie came face to face with a reality starkly different than the one she had known growing up - a refugee crisis, children forced into hard labor, and families torn apart by the Nepalese civil war. Struck by a deep affinity for the Nepalese people, Maggie new she had to act. She pooled what little resources she had, and together with her cofounder, a local Nepali man named Top Malla, she founded BlinkNow, a nonprofit organization that runs a school, women's center, and children's home in Surkhet Nepal.Check out the Episode
When her best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 26, Zionna Hanson realized that there are serious problems in the way breast cancer is diagnosed and treated. The minimum screening age is typically 40 (far later than many women develop breast cancer) and long-term mental, physical, and emotional care is virtually nonexistent. Z founded Barbells for Boobs to advocate to redefine the standard of care in breast health and improving quality of life post diagnosis.Check out the Episode
Throughout her career, Becky Straw has seen the impact stable employment can have on individuals and their families. A self-described “advocate for the unsexy,” Becky has repeatedly gotten involved with causes that foster entrepreneurship and job creation in developing communities around the world.Check out the Episode
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Moonshot.co is home to Cause & Purpose, a podcast about leaders in the social impact sector. Hear their stories, successes, failures, and lessons-learned from lives spent in the trenches, tackling the world’s most important challenges.