Meet the Woman on a Mission to Save Children, One Adoption at a Time
At 19 years old, Maggie Doyne called her parents and did something most teenagers do: She asked them to send her money.
Yet unlike her peers, Doyne asked her parents to wire the $5,000 she’d saved babysitting so she could build a home for children in Nepal.
Now, 17 years—and 60 adoptions—later, Doyne is still living in Nepal with her children (including two biological babies), working tirelessly to make sure as many young people as possible have a safe, loving home in which to grow up.
“I’ve seen firsthand that if we can find a way to nurture and love children and give them a happy childhood, it’s the greatest gift we can give,” says Doyne. “I believe poverty and war is a direct result of the human family not being able to take care of our children. Once a child is nurtured and given joy and happiness and a home, anything is possible. They do the rest.”
We sat down with Doyne to talk about her unique path to motherhood, what she learned from her own mother about being a mom, and her new memoir that details her journey: Between the Mountain and the Sky: A Mother’s Story of Love, Loss, Healing, and Hope.
A CONVERSATION WITH MAGGIE DOYNE
During a gap year between high school and college, you took a life-changing trip to Nepal. Can you talk about the moment you knew your life was about to take a different trajectory?
I was a typical, suburban New Jersey girl with sisters and a mom and dad. I grew up on a little cul de sac, in a community where everyone went to college. That was the path laid out before us. After high school, I decided at the last moment that I wanted to take a gap year. I didn’t know my purpose, what I wanted to study, or anything about myself on the inside.
The first semester of my gap year, I enrolled in a travel program that was all about cultural immersion and self-discovery. The focus was outside the four walls of the classroom.
My second semester, I went to India and discovered there was a major refugee crisis happening across the border in Nepal. I became friends with a girl who was from Nepal and traveled there with her. When we got there, I saw the effects of war, child labor, families being separated, and the orphan crisis.
I ended up staying in Nepal, and [the catalyst] was when I saw a young girl breaking rocks on a riverbed to sell as gravel. In that moment, I said, “One day, I want to walk across this riverbed and not see a single child breaking rocks.” I wanted to do what I could to see a problem so intense and be a part of the solution. So, I stayed and started raising children—including that young girl I saw on the riverbed that day.
I didn’t expect to become a mom, or a mother figure, but in order to solve the problems we needed a home for the children to live. For children who’ve lost everything, going to school was a huge dream. But you can’t really think about an education if you’re hungry, not safe, have no parents, or don’t have a home.
I’ve been living in Nepal for 17 years now. Motherhood just kind of happened, because the kids all held a meeting one day and said, “We’re going to start calling you mom.”
Now I have two biological children and 60 children in our home.
You recently wrote a book about your time in Nepal. What do you hope readers will take away from it?
I’d been keeping journals capturing my own journey with motherhood. I wrote to process all the emotions that come along with it. Our story was covered in the press, but I wanted to tell the truth and talk more about the stuff going on under the surface—the complexity of it all. In the early years, the press was all about headlines like, “18-Year-Old Girl with Backpack Tries to Help Children.” I wanted the chance to go deeper.
My children are also in college now—they’re entering their 20s. I wanted them to have a little piece of me and know the journey that we were on as a family. I think they’re going through that age where they question things and want to understand how it all went. Handing my children the book was amazing. Two of them were home from college, and they read it in one sitting. They said, “Oh, we didn’t know this or that.” One of my sons, Krishna, asked “How did you know to pick me?” My oldest child said to me, “Oh my God, I can’t imagine my life without this.”
You write that the power to change the world exists within all of us. What’s your No. 1 piece of advice on how to start figuring out how to use our skills and talents to start making positive change?
The power does exist within all of us, and you don’t need to move 8,000 miles away or become a mother to 60 kids! All around us there’s that one step we can take. There are so many problems right now and so much collective anxiety and fear. It’s really easy to feel paralyzed. But I think we have to stay hopeful and take those little steps—baby steps that just may lead to something bigger.
My journey started with just one kid on a riverbed. Now, there are no kids breaking rocks on that riverbed.
Give someone an opportunity. Mentor. Volunteer. Simply show someone some kindness. Everyone can do something; it doesn’t have to be extreme.
You are the parent and legal guardian to more than 60 children, and you have two biological kids as well. What have you learned about motherhood along the way?
I think the most important thing is realizing that it takes a community and a village, and what I love about Nepali culture is that it’s really set up that way. Mothers support each other.
Also, the love is just insane. You think that love is diluted once you get to five, 10, 20 kids—but it doesn’t. The love just grows even when you don’t think it’s possible.
Children are so innately resilient and full of joy and beauty. When you have as many kids as I do and you see them thriving and healing and killing it in Kindergarten, it drives you crazy because you’re like: I just want that for every child. How have we not figured out how to take care of our most sacred? I think the mothers of the world need to host a little takeover.
What did you learn from your own mother about being a mom?
My own mom was full of love. She told us we could do anything, be anything. I remember her from a very early age pointing out how lucky we were and urging us not to take our opportunities for granted. Both my parents were very free spirited—especially my mom. When I told her I wanted her to send me my $5,000 of babysitting money I’d earned to buy a plot of land in Nepal and open a home for children, she didn’t say no. She let me follow my heart and go on that journey.
My parents anchored us in nature, helped us appreciate the moments, and really encouraged us to go off the beaten track to find ourselves and our purpose. I’m really grateful for that.
What would you share with others about how to be a great mother or caregiver?
I think motherhood looks different for everyone. For me, just being present is so important. It goes by so fast. Raising kids is like watching a time machine grow right in front of your eyes. One second they’re getting teeth, the next they’re walking, then they’re losing teeth, then they’re in school.
I think culturally, we don’t get set up in the sense where we’re encouraged to really be there for our kids. It’s not something we’re supported in as women. I feel really grateful that I’ve been able to get those moments amidst the hustle and being a working woman.