There was an article in the NY Times today (thanks for sharing P!) about American women who were inspired to find their own way to help aid projects in rural (often) war torn areas of the world.
The first example was a Harvard Business School student who as an intern in Mozambique was shocked to learn that productivity was affected by women who could not come to work or go to school during menstruation due to the cost of sanitary pads. Since menstrual taboos has been a topic on the blog before, it grabbed my attention.
But further into the long article (around page 4) the story of Maggie Doyne began– she grew up in New Jersey, a top student and three-sport athlete, who needed a break before starting university. Using the money she saved from babysitting in high school, she took a gap year in northern India to work with children and…
It was an impoverished area, yet Nepali refugees were pouring in and sleeping on the bare ground, fleeing civil war in their country. Doyne couldn’t imagine what kind of conditions would be so bad that people would flee to where she was. So when the Maoist insurgency in Nepal calmed, she boarded a crammed public bus with a Nepali teenage girl to visit the girl’s hometown. They got off, 48 hours and several bus breakdowns later, at the end of the bus line. Then Doyne and her friend hiked for another three days to the girl’s home in the heartland of the Maoist insurgency.
It was a gorgeous Himalayan village, with a river running through it. But it was also ravaged by the war. Temples had been burned down, and the girl’s home had been converted into a rebel camp. Most children couldn’t afford school. In the cities, she had seen them working with hammers, breaking rocks into gravel to sell.
“The first little girl I met was Hema,” Doyne remembers. Then 6 or 7 years old (few children know their precise age), Hema spent her time breaking rocks and scavenging garbage and had no chance to go to school. But she was radiant and adorable and always greeted Doyne in Nepali with a warm, “Good morning, Sister!”
“Maybe I saw a piece of myself in her,” said Doyne, who decided to take Hema under her wing and pay for her education: “I knew I couldn’t do anything about a million orphans, but what if I started with this girl?” So she took Hema to school and paid $7 for the girl’s school fees and another $8 for a uniform so that she could enter kindergarten.
From there it became addicting– and needless to say five years later (she is only 23!) she still hasn’t gone to college, but she is now the principal of a school for 220 children that she has built and financed herself, and more recently with grants from CosmoGirl Magazine and DoSomething.org. The story was an inspiring read, so I wanted to share. Please check it out… and the photo slide show of her school and students.