Mother of Flowers: Maggie Doyne

December 2, 2013 , by Yukta Bajracharya, Leave your thoughts
Mother of Flowers: Maggie Doyne » My Dreams Mag
We dreamed of taking children who were begging on the streets, living in slums or working in hotels, and turning them into all-stars. Seven years later when you look at our kids, you have absolutely no idea of their background. 


We are the Kopilas, growing every day.
We are the Kopilas, blooming every day.
We are the Kopilas, learning every day.”


Lined up in neat rows according to their house divisions, the 350 students of Kopila Valley School and Children’s Home in Birendranagar, Surkhet join their hands together into a Namaste, close their eyes and sing their school song in melodic unison. For these children who come from mostly poor economic backgrounds and marginalized communities, Kopila Valley School and Children’s Home has been the ground to learn, bloom, and grow.

Kopila Valley Public School

Co-founded in 2008 by Maggie Doyne as a children’s home, by 2010, the home was expanded into Kopila Valley Primary School. The school not just provides quality education to its students free of cost, but provides to the overall needs of these children. At 26, Maggie is a mother to all these children, a ray of hope for them, and an inspiration for the world.

I’m not very political. Half the time I don’t even know the reason behind a banda. We cook school lunch for 350 kids every day and if we find out there is a strike at the last minute, we have to send our students home without food, or being able to teach them. It makes me really sad,” Maggie laments. As a mother and educator, and someone who is making things better for Nepali children, she wishes that parties would stop disagreeing amongst themselves and make improving the lives of Nepal’s children a number one priority. “If we want Nepal to thrive, our children have to be loved, cared for, and have their basic needs met. Everything else, in my humble opinion, comes second,” she believes.

Here’s more of her experiences, challenges and aspirations.

Maggie Doyne

Tell us briefly how Kopila Valley School happened. How did you know that this is what you wanted to do in life?

I took my first trip to Nepal in 2006, just as the civil war was ending. I traveled up in the remote areas of the Mid-Western region and was shocked by the level of poverty I saw. Down in the city I met children who were working in hotels or as domestic servants, breaking rocks on the side of the road, laboring in brickyards, and working as porters, instead of going to school. I wanted to do something about it. I had an amazing support team. My co-founder Tope Bahadur Malla and many of my staff were also orphaned at a young age, so they understand the struggles of children who don’t have a family to support them. We dreamed of taking those children who were begging on the streets, living in slums or working in hotels, and turning them into all-stars. Now seven years later when you look at our kids, you have absolutely no idea of their background.


What is a normal day in Kopila Valley like?
At Kopila Valley Children’s Home, we wake up around 6:30 and get ready for our day by doing chores. The breakfast bell rings at 7:30. We all check in and eat breakfast together. Then the kids get ready for school. Luckily, school is just about 100 meters up the road. The kids all walk over together. An additional 300 children come in from all over the valley. We run a long school day with assembly, lunch, a free open-clinic, library time, and after-school activities. The days go fast. Our teachers work hard and constantly meet to discuss different issues that arise. The evenings are dedicated to homework, family dinner, playtime, chores, and satsang where we gather together as a family, talk about our day and sing the Gayatri Mantra. Bedtime is always a frenzy, but eventually somewhere between 9 and 9:30 we read stories, brush our teeth and get to bed.


As a young person behind such a project, what were some of the challenges you faced?
I actually think being young helped me a lot. I never gave up and I never stopped dreaming. If anything, my young age made people want to support me more, protect me, cheer me on and really invest in my success. The older men and women in my village call me “daughter”. The middle aged men and women call me “little sister”. I’ve always felt loved and embraced… like we’re in this together.


Was the community in Surkhet always supportive?
My community here in Surkhet has always been supportive, but I have to say that the support has increased the more involved everyone became in the carrying out of the project. We formed a local board of directors and village committees. We listened to everyone’s ideas and put them into action. Everyone benefited by working together. Learning the Nepali language and really embracing Nepali culture and values also helped me a lot. I feel like my Nepali friends, neighbors, and the people of Surkhet, don’t see me as much of an outsider anymore. I feel just as Nepali as American.

Benjamin Heiber

Photo: Benjamin Heiber

What approach do you take while educating the children at Kopila Valley, both in and out of school?

We focus on the fact that we are a “family”, the Kopila Family, growing, blooming and learning every day. There is no hitting or physical punishment of ANY kind. We have ZERO tolerance for physical punishment. We only bring people onto our team who are willing to work together, strive for success, love and mentor the kids, and who believe in their hearts that education is the path to transforming our world. We all look out for each other.


My dedicated teachers actually do home visits where they meet with our students’ families and try to improve their home lives. They are always putting in extra time, be it on weekends, late nights, or early mornings. We also do a ton of community activities such school dramas, poetry slams, debates, community service activities, art, music, sporting events. Sometimes local people criticize that our kids are always playing and never studying, but we believe in all kinds of learning, both inside and outside of the classroom. We place a ton of focus on moral character. We’d rather our students be kind and compassionate than always first in their class.


Not that academics don’t matter. They do. Our curriculum is rigorous. We demand hard work and reward effort. On the District Level Examination (DLE) last year, every single one of our students placed distinction and first division. So they are high performing in academics as well. Our kids are all incredibly well rounded.

Kopila Poetry Month Assembly

Kopila Poetry Month Assembly

How do you keep yourself motivated?
I look around me at all the good things happening all over the world and focus on the positive. Just looking at the smiles on my children’s faces and hearing their laughter is more than enough to get me out of bed and to work each morning. I feel lucky and really blessed to be able to do the work that I do. I dream of creating a more peaceful and prosperous world.


What are your future plans for Kopila Valley Children’s Home and School?

Now our big dream is to build a high school so that our students continue onwards, towards higher education. We recently acquired a piece of land that we’re now trying to develop.


What is your dream for all your children at Kopila Valley?

I want my children to be good mothers and fathers, members of society and citizens of the world. My wish is that my children dream big and become the next generation of teachers, nurses, social workers, journalists, engineers, doctors and members of society who will lead Nepal into the future.

Follow happenings at Kopila Valley School and Children’s Home at Facebook or their website blinknow.org

Kopila Valley Public School


Text by: Yukta Bajracharya
Image Source: Maggie Doyne

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