RANDOLPH,NJ- The Randolph Middle School’s Social Emotional Character Development (SECD) committee had a special guest, Maggie Doyne, speak to students on Wednesday, Feb. 12.
The SECD committee implements a variety of character building programs. Four years ago, they decided to reach out beyond the Randolph community to keep true to their slogan, "A Better School, A Better World". After researching charities that help children around the world they came across Maggie Doyne, an inspiring philanthropist who has spent her adult life developing schools and a children’s home in Kopila Valley of Nepal.
“She changed their lives,” said Diane Auerbach, an eighth grade Guidance Counselor. “It shows that the power of one can really make a change. One person changed the lives of so many and touched the lives of so many.”
Doyne grew up in Moorestown and later moved to Mendham. In visiting the Middle School this year, she quickly discovered that the middle school shared something in common with her childhood, she had the middle school Principal as her own teacher.
“Yes, she was one of my students,” said middle school principal, Dennis Copeland. “To teach is to touch a life forever.”
Dr. Copeland was Doyne’s fourth grade science teacher in elementary school at Morristown. Doyne described him as her “all time favorite teacher.”
Doyne graduated from high school in 2005. Instead of going to college right after, she signed up for a gap year called LEAPNOW. With 12 other students, Doyne backpacked all around the world participating in service-learning programs.
“I lived in a Buddhist monastery and learned about Buddhism,” said Doyne. “I meditated with monks and I rebuilt a seawall in a village in Fiji. I learned how to scuba dive in Australia in the Great Barrier Reef.”
During the second part of the year, Doyne decided that she wanted to work with kids. When she was younger, Doyne babysat a lot and found a great love for kids. She signed up to work in a program with refugees in Northeastern India. Soon after, she packed up her bag again and moved to Northeastern India.
“I went to such a great school and had such a great education but I didn’t even know where Nepal was on a map,” Doyne said. “I didn’t know there was a 13 year civil war going on.”
The civil war in Nepal left an approximate one million orphaned kids. There in India, Doyne met a young 16-year-old refugee, Sunita, who had left her village eight years prior. Sunita was on a mission to find her family so the two planned a trip to go to the Northeast to Nepal.
A two-day bus ride and three day walk up mountain footpaths brought them to Sunita's home village. Doyne and her friend discovered that the village was converted into a rebel base camp during the war and her family had dissipated elsewhere.
“Seeing that through her eyes changed my life because she was a young girl my age and our lives were different,” said Doyne.
After the civil war, schools were shut down. The village temple had been torn down. People’s homes had been taken over.
“If you asked any single kid in Nepal they would say that their biggest wish was to go to school and get an education,” said Doyne. “It really shook me. I was 18 at the time and I was like man I wish I had known growing up what a gift I had received, such an amazing education. I wish I had known that millions of kids all over the world that’s all they want, to go to school.”
Doyne would frequently be asked what was the moment that defined her decision to move from New Jersey and shift her life to eight thousand miles away. The moment was when she walked along the road in Nepal and crossed paths with a 13-year-old girl who was carrying an 120 pound sack on her back from a bus station to a remote market place.
“I was just like how does this make sense? How did this happen,” Doyne said “She and I are the same, but this is her life every single day. When I was this age I was on the soccer field. I was in the classroom and learning. I was going to my first dance. How was it that our lives were so different?”
Another problem Doyne saw was kids breaking rocks instead of going to school. Children would go to the riverbed and take out rocks to break. All day they would break stones and sell them for a dollar as gravel.
The day Doyne crossed paths with this girl and her 120 pound sack was the day she decided to make a change and start making life better for these children.
Doyne came across another little girl, Heema, who was picking up garbage looking for food. Although Doyne recognized she wouldn’t be able to help all the orphans in the world, she realized she was able to help one child. Doyne took the initiative to enroll Heema into school. The price for school admissions was $7 and a uniform was $5. Doyne bought her books and a backpack.
“My job is like an addiction,” Doyne said. “It’s the best job in the entire world.“
After Doyne’s experience with Heema, she began to learn the language. She met with government officials and village elders and began enrolling more kids into school.
Nepal has a big population of homeless kids who are left without families. Doyne spent $5,000 she had saved up from her babysitting jobs and wired the money to buy a piece of property where she built a children’s home. She wanted to create something she was proud of for orphan care. When Doyne ran out of money, she went back home and took every babysitting job she could find so she could collect $2,600 for bricks to build the home.
Today, Doyne has built an elementary school that has enrolled 350 kids into Kopila Valley School. Doyne would wish for the day that she could one day pass the dry riverbed and not see a single child breaking rocks. This wish came true.
“That’s my mission. We can do this ourselves. If we want to change the world, it’s in our hands,” said Doyne. “We can create the world we want to live in. All we have to do is have dream and start one person at a time, one thing at a time. “
Doyne has a school staff: 20 teachers, a principal, a vice principal, a counsolor and a full-time nurse. They run a clinic. They farm and grow their own food. They have a nutrition program for the kids because often the kids who come to school only get that one meal they have at Kopila Valley for the whole day.
Doyne has been coming to speak to all Randolph schools for the last four years in a row. Every single year Randolph has been able to sponsor 25 students. They’ve been able to build three more classes, buy new uniforms and books for new students.
“I just wanted to personally thank you for your events,” Doyne said. “The little things really do make a difference. I couldn’t have done this without Randolph and without all of you guys caring so much about my little school.”
The Randolph Middle School has been organizing fundraisers to help Doyne and her cause. There has been a Halloween Dance with a "haunted hallway" that made over $500. In March, there will be a movie night, which is expected to bring in another $500. The biggest fundraiser is in May, the Rockapalooza event, usually brings in $4,000-5,000.
Doyne’s school has progressed all the way up to the 10th grade. There will soon be a high school to be built later this year.