Maggie Doyne lives and works in Nepal, where she runs BlinkNow, a nonprofit organization which includes a children’s home, school, and women’s health center. In addition to leading the organization, with her Nepali co-founder Top Bahadur Malla, Maggie is a mother figure and legal guardian to more than 50 children. Today, on Giving Tuesday, we’re talking to Maggie about her experience with motherhood, advocating for women, and how our readers can help support her mission to provide and care for some of Nepal’s most vulnerable population.
You’re the mother to more than 50 children. How do you explain what this role looks like to people who are used to thinking of 2-4 children as “the norm”?
It’s more like a communal family. The oldest kids are in their twenties now and the youngest are toddlers with every age in between. The older kids really support and look after the younger ones and we have many other caregivers, house parents, aunties and uncles. As the family has grown, so has our caregiving team and support staff. I don’t know how to describe it to someone who hasn’t been here before but, it somehow flows on a schedule and feels just like any other home or family.
Image courtesy of BlinkNow
How do you foster intimacy as a family with so many children?
We are lucky to have an entire team that takes part in the parenting process. We have aunties and uncles, caregivers, my husband, our co-founder and his wife, social workers and counselors. There is literally a village of people raising our children. And yes, our family is huge but we have found ways to foster connection—nightly family meetings called satsung where we sing, play games, and talk about the week; movie nights every Friday, family game days on Saturdays, morning walks, reading before bed. It would be impossible for one person to do this alone and that’s why I’m so thankful that we have a team of incredible parents.
You recently gave birth to your first biological child. How has that affected your relationship with your other children?
Honestly I didn’t know how it would feel to have a birth child until she arrived and until she was here in Nepal. She somehow just fits perfectly into it all. I think it made my relationship with my kids stronger, especially my teenagers. They were so happy to see me meet someone and have a baby and we kept them feeling apart of it every step along the way. There were of course tender moments, like when I told them I was pregnant and when we decided to give birth in the States but we got through it all by staying open and honest about it.
Photograph by Jeremy Power Regimbal
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about motherhood? What’s been your greatest challenge?
The most important things to me have been creating a home and an environment that is loving, comforting, peaceful, and calm. I pay a lot of attention to how I want our home and family to feel. I also believe in making memories. We go all out on holidays and fun family trips and activities. I also and try to make the most of every moment. That means dance parties in the kitchen and taking time every day for laughter and silliness, also just taking the time to be completely present with each other.
The greatest challenge is making the time and creating the space for all of the above. It’s all about being present.
In your article for Cup of Jo, you say, “In the villages, women give birth at home, and there are complications that come along with that. There are no ultrasounds or access to prenatal vitamins.” Did you give birth in Nepal, and if so, what was that experience like?
[My husband] Jeremy and I made the decision to give birth in the States. It was a very big decision for me and I wrote a lot about the privilege that came with that choice. It felt conflicting. I have seen many women go through pregnancy and birth in Nepal and I have seen it from many angles.
Of the Women’s Center, your website says “We work together to shape the curriculum and offer the best opportunities for development and daily inspiration.” What does that look like?
We hold classes covering a range of topics, including parenting, women’s rights, health, stress management, and self-confidence. These classes then run alongside the women’s vocational learning such as sewing, weaving, business classes, and entrepreneurship.
The BlinkNow Women’s Center, photograph by Molly Haley
What has been the most surprising part of this work? What can our readers do to empower women, both at home and abroad?
The most surprising thing has been that when the women finish they ask that the men have the class too. We also realized early on that women know how to care for themselves and their families, they just don’t always have access to the money to do so. Helping women to achieve financial independence has been our focus and has really shaped our center and the services we provide.
What are your future goals for BlinkNow? How can our readers get involved?
Our biggest project right now is the new Kopila Valley School campus. It’s the campus of our dreams and consists of a preschool, middle school, high school, library, computer lab, science lab, administration office, medical/counselor center, cafeteria and auditorium. Once finished, our hope is that this campus will provide a model for sustainable and education based projects around the world.
Image courtesy of BlinkNow
There are several ways for your readers to get involved. As you mentioned above, today is Giving Tuesday—an international day of giving back and a great time for people to contribute to the causes they are most passionate about. Right now we are raising money to sustain our programs so that we can continue to help women and children for years to come. We have various opportunities for people to support our organization at a level they are comfortable with.
Learn more about Maggie, BlinkNow, and how you can get involved here.