Tag Archives: Inspirational

“Every good home needs a solid foundation.” Maggie Doyne

Maggie Doyne with her children; Nepalese orphans she educates and cares for.

In 2005, Maggie Doyne was just another high school senior from New Jersey that was excited about college and all the new possibilities it would bring. Consumed by the SATs, application deadlines, soccer and boys, Doyne never thought that, at 22, she would be building the Kopila Valley Children’s Home – designed to give Nepalese children basic necessities, such as food, water and, most importantly, education.

After just completing her senior year of high school, Doyne asked her parents to take a year off from college to go on an excursion around the world with the organization Leap Now, in order to take part in ecological and cultural projects. “I’ll never forget the morning—after having been up all night cramming for an exam—that I stumbled downstairs in my pajamas, and announced to my parents my wish to take a year off. So, as my classmates headed off to college, my parents dropped me off at Newark Airport—just me and my backpack on my first solo trip away from home. As nervous as I was, (and I was!), there was something really liberating about this first journey. I had no idea where the road ahead would lead. I felt like there was something inside me, something deeper, something just waiting to be unleashed.”

With a group of 12 other students, Doyne helped rebuild a deteriorating sea wall in a Fijian tribal village, worked with native Maori Tribes to restore their stream, spent time with aborigines in the outback, took outdoor leadership and survival courses, and even learned how to meditate at a Buddhist monastery!  Not bad for a girl just out of high school.

After the trip with Leap Now, Doyne decided to venture out on her own and do an independent internship in an orphanage in Northeastern India. However, what was supposed to be just a 3-month internship stretched out into a full year. Doyne says, “While I was in the orphanage in India, I started meeting Nepalese refugees, mostly children who had fled the country during the Maoist Insurgency. I decided to go to Nepal to see the aftermath of the war with my own eyes. Before I knew it, I was trekking through the Himalayas and passing through some of the most poverty stricken villages in the region. I was astounded by the conditions, burned temples, ransacked homes and destroyed schools. I fell in love with the bright eyes and beautiful smiles of the children but was shocked to see many of them struggling to survive without their most basic needs: A safe home, food, clothing and the chance to go to school.”

This was what brought her to build the Kopila Valley Children’s Home. “I started following the news and events, speaking with NGOs, (non-government affiliated organizations) peace organizations, government officials and resident villagers in the border region of Nepal and discovered that one of the biggest issues in the country, was the lack of facilities for the country’s misplaced children; ex-child soldiers, orphans, and young girls sold into sex-trafficking.”

As soon as she began to learn more about these unfortunate, mistreated children, Doyne quickly asked her parents to wire all of her babysitting money to her savings account. By 2006, Maggie Doyne was able to buy the five thousand dollar piece of land that would later turn into the incredible Kopila Valley Children’s home.

Now, Maggie Doyne is living full time in Nepal, with various breaks to the U.S.. She is currently developing Blink Now, a non-profit organization that is not only the U.S. side of the Kopila Valley Children’s home, but also a vehicle that shares Doyne’s ideas with teenagers of the world today.

Unfortunately, the INSPIRE@BTHS Team was not able to meet Maggie Doyne due to her very busy schedule. For this reason, we were not able to ask her the questions from the Marcel Proust Questionnaire. However, here is a video that really showcases the heart and vigor of Doyne’s personality – one of a truly gifted and giving woman.

Maggie Doyne is an incredible woman to say the very least. She is diligent, strong-willed and a true revolutionary. The INSPIRE@BTHS Team cannot wait to see what new and exciting projects Maggie, and Blink Now, will be up to next.

So everyone, as Maggie Doyne says, “In the blink of an eye, we can all make a difference.” Be assertive. Be curious and most importantly, be inspired.

Adieu and Arrivaderci everyone! Until next time on INSPIRE@BTHS.

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One Woman, One Call: Rebuilding from the Bottom Up—Gretchen Wallace

Gretchen Wallace

Gretchen Wallace

“I’ve always believed in inner-driven change — that decisions made with the greatest level of awareness will ensure the wisest response and most potent, effective results. I’ve now spent seven years training in the fields of personal transformation, meditation and alternative healing. Bringing my passions together, I founded Global Grassroots in 2004 to advance what I call ‘conscious social change’ among grassroots, marginalized women.” — Gretchen Wallace

Rwanda. People used to call it “a tropical Switzerland in the heart of Africa.” A stunning, landlocked country in the Central Eastern part of Africa, Rwanda was praised for its lush land and beauty. Fast forward to April 6th 1994, and the world sees Rwanda spiral downwards to a state of total destruction. Due to ethnic tensions between two groups, the Hutus and the Tutsis, about 800,000 innocent Rwandan civilians, mostly Tutsis and a few Hutus, were massacred by Hutu soldiers in one of the most concentrated genocides of all time.

During the genocide, thousands of women and girls were sexually abused due to gender-based violence within the country. Moreover, after this horrific event, it was estimated that about 70 percent of the Rwandan population was made up of women who now had to assume the male roles within their households and, slowly but surely, rebuild their whole lives from the ground up. Even today, 16 years after the Rwandan Genocide, about one third of the population in Rwanda is still lead by women who have absolutely no income or support.

Nevertheless, certain remarkable people have taken notice of the devastating conditions that are in Rwanda and have decided to help. Just talk to the people in Global Grassroots, a non-profit organization that is entirely focused on helping women from Rwanda recover from that horrific occurrence and essentially start anew. However, Global Grassroots wouldn’t have been the incredible organization that it is today without one person, CEO and founder of Global Grassroots, Gretchen Wallace.

The daughter of a Navy Admiral, Gretchen Wallace spent much of her childhood living abroad, particularly in the Philippines. It’s here that she understood the privileges that she originally had and where her future interest in social change was founded.

After a trip to South Africa back in 2004, Wallace was surprised by more than just the high HIV/AIDS rate. It was the small unionization of women (and men) uniting against rape and violence that took her by surprise. These women, no matter how small their impact, were taking strides in order to better their community. With that idea in mind, Wallace established Global Grassroots, an organization aimed at helping women rebuild, reorganize and revamp.

Since then, Global Grassroots has made enormous progress. They’ve designed local projects to combat abuse and rape and have trained change leaders in Rwanda who will work towards advancing women’s rights and well being. The organization had also funded local projects that worked to help vulnerable women and girls by providing information on domestic violence, water access and illiteracy along with rape and sexual violence.

Based on the idea that Global Grassroots “helps women help themselves,” this amazing establishment is working towards bettering the world one woman at a time.

The INSPIRE@BTHS Team then went on to ask Gretchen Wallace a few questions out of the Marcel Proust Questionnaire. We believe that this is a great way to get to know our interviewee. Here is a bit of what Wallace had to tell us.

Favorite fictional hero: I don’t read a lot of fiction, but the last book I read “Little Bee” had a character that resonated with me – the British woman who made several major sacrifices to save a stranger – I was quite inspired.

Most treasured possession:  My journals from all of my travels and personal transformation courses, which have all the wisdom and teachings from the people I have met.

When and where were you happiest: One of my happiest memories was a my husband and I took to India several years ago – it was a magical journey filled with heartache at the poverty we witnessed, but also joy, fascination and adventure as we delved deeply into another culture together.

Greatest extravagance: International travel. I just adore travel to foreign countries where I can explore and connect with another world.

Favorite journey: I think my favorite journey besides India would have to be to Thailand. I was able to go on an amazing retreat to study Buddhism, Feminism and Social Change with an organization called Allies for Peace in a rural village north of Chiang Mai, Thailand on the border with Burma. It was quite transformative.

Greatest achievement:  I think the most meaningful moment in my work was when one of three men attending our Academy for Conscious Change (which is mostly geared towards women) stood up and gave me a gift – a tiny wood carving of a warrior holding a shield and spear and called me a “hero woman” who is fighting for women and girls. I was stunned. It meant so much to have a man – one of the constituencies usually least likely to value my organization’s work – acknowledge me in that way – that was probably my greatest achievement.

Greatest influence: My spiritual teacher and Integrative Breathwork teacher, Jessica Dibb with the Inspiration Community in Owings Mills, MD. She has taught me how to access my deepest self and to live life fully from a place of authenticity, love and non-violence.

Motto: I appreciate the words spoken by one of my teachers, a Vietnam Vet who is now a practicing Buddhist and alternative healer: “It is not the magnitude of the task that matters, but the intentions with which it is attempted.”

Gretchen Wallace is an incredible woman to say the very least. She is truly one of those few precious gems in the world who has dedicated her whole life to helping others, and we were so honored to have interviewed this inspiring woman. The INSPIRE@BTHS Team cannot wait to see what new and exciting projects Gretchen , as well as Global Grassroots, will be up to next.

So everyone, it is not the magnitude of the task that matters, but the intentions with which it is attempted. Be assertive. Be curious and most importantly, be inspired.

Adieu and Arrivaderci everyone! Until next time on INSPIRE@BTHS.

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“You are really only as good as your latest collection, and, when it comes to stores, you are only as good as your latest delivery. ” — Ashleigh Verrier

Ashleigh Verrier

Ashleigh Verrier

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street; fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” — Coco Chanel

Fashion is an art form. Fashion is self expression. Fashion is a business. But most importantly, fashion is one of the biggest evolving constants in the world. In some way or another, everyone contributes to the world of fashion. However, only a remarkable few are the ones who are the creators of the garments – the artists in the fashion industry. Today, INSPIRE@BTHS explores one such person – fashion designer, Ashleigh Verrier.

In a bright and spacious studio on Seventh Avenue, sit the whimsical and romantic designs of Ashleigh Verrier, a 28 year old designer from San Francisco. The walls are covered with cut outs of designs and sketches waiting to come to life. With wide windows and beaming rays of light, the studio overlooks an array of office buildings and apartments. It is the very heart of New York City. Here is where this master of her craft creates the next “it” look.

Verrier moved to New York City at the age of 20 to attend Parsons The New School of Design, where she graduated as “Designer of the Year.” However, it didn’t stop there. She then sold her senior thesis collection to Saks Fifth Avenue. Verrier says “It was amazing. The fashion program at Parsons provides an entree` to being successful in the industry. You have to have what it takes to put together a collection that is going to be commercially viable. You have to get people excited in terms of what you are doing. I think it was sort of this wave where I would intern for other designers who sold their senior thesis collection to Barneys , which really gave way to this idea that I could actually have this opportunity to sell my collection to a major department store. So, it was incredibly exciting. I think when you have an opportunity like that, it is definitely worth taking advantage of so you can correlate that into a business. In saying that, there is obviously a significant amount of things that need to happen in order to run a business beyond just doing a fantastic senior thesis collection. I think there is sort of that balance of being able to link what you do as a student and having that lead into a successful business.”

Nevertheless, it wasn’t all success when Verrier first started up her line. There were certain obstacles that Ashleigh Verrier had to overcome before becoming the incredible success that she is. “There are so many moving parts to running a fashion business. I think people from the outside perspective think of it as this glamorous, very creative field. You’re making pretty dresses and looking at beautiful fabrics and you’re drawing fashion sketches. There is a certain element of that, but I really would say it is kind of more rolling up your sleeves and getting it done—whether it is production on orders that you’re receiving or even just dealing with factories to translate your patterns into actual garments, which isn’t terribly glamorous. I don’t know if I have a biggest challenge. I think everything combined represented a challenge in itself of just trying to balance everything. It really took me a while to kind of get the ebb and flow of fashion, when things are more busy versus when things would calm down a bit. There is so much that goes into timing. I would say that the biggest challenge in fashion is staying on top of your game. Because you are really only as good as your latest collection, and, when it comes to stores, you are only as good as your latest delivery. ”

With so many opportunities coming from so many different directions, Verrier learned to prioritize her time in such a way to make it all work for her. She states “As a designer, you are constantly pushing, constantly trying to create something that is different, and it took me a while to get used to that pace. I think the way I overcame that is just putting things into perspective and saying ‘Okay, let me only take on what I can handle.’ So when I first started showing my collections, I decided not to do a full-on runway show but do more of a fashion presentation. Also, when it came to stores, I wanted to be very strategic with what stores I would align with and how I would distribute the garments. So, there is definitely that balancing that I had to consider.”

Furthermore, Ashleigh Verrier is a strong believer in hard work and perseverance. When asked what advice she had for other aspiring designers, she said “I think it has a lot to do with following your intuition. I recently read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, and, in the book, Pausch says ‘Success is when luck meets opportunity.’ It‘s this idea of being ready for luck when it comes. So, I think my advice for anybody going into any field, pursuing whatever dream they want to pursue, is to firstly, never ever give up. You are going to face challenges. You are going to hit these brick walls that you are going to have to get through. Second, you always have to be ready for this idea of luck. It’s putting in the work, so that when those opportunities come, you are ready. I think that is the definition of success. I think, going into this industry, you have to definitely have a more realistic perspective that it is not all about a glamorous lifestyle. There is a lot of hard work that goes into it. For me and Jude (Verrier’s mother as well as her business partner), we face challenges every day that put us to the test of whether or not we really want to do all of this. So, I would say have discipline, do what you want to do, and be ready for luck.”

The INSPIRE@BTHS Team then went on to ask Ashleigh Verrier a few questions out of the Marcel Proust Questionnaire. We believe that this is a great way to get to know our interviewee. Here is a bit of what Verrier had to tell us.

Favorite Fictional Character: Holden Caulfield from Catcher in Rye by J.D. Salinger.

Most treasured possession: Pictures of family.

When and where you happiest: Probably when I was a child. I grew up in Mill Valley, just outside of San Francisco, and it was this picturesque, chalet type of house on an acre of land. It was just really a happy time. Looking back, I have a lot of fond memories. However, I wouldn’t say that it isn’t the only happy time, because I experience happy times right now, but that definitely would be a happy moment.

Greatest Extravagance: My boyfriend and I go to a lot of restaurants, so that can be an extravagance. I think New York is just an amazing place to go out and indulge.

Favorite Journey: When I graduated from high school, my mom took me to London and Paris. I think that kind of the first time that I opened my eyes to fashion. London was so different from Paris because they both had their own personalities. London was very boho-chic and boutique oriented while Paris was very grand scale with all the chic Parisian fashion.

Greatest Achievement: It is hard to point specifics on “a greatest achievement.” Obviously, selling my thesis collection to Saks was a big push. When I did my first presentation, I had this spread in W Magazine which was really exciting. I’ve had celebrities, who I really admire, where my clothes like Christina Hendricks and Elizabeth Moss from Mad Men. I’ve done charity work that I am proud of like participated in the Red Heart Truth Campaign where I designed a custom dress to benefit women’s heart health for Natasha Henstridge. It is such a challenge because you can say “I’ve done this, and I’ve done that,” but because you need to reinvent yourself everyday type of industry, you can’t rest on those laurels. When you look back you are like “Oh, I’ve done this and that,” but , at the same time, I feel like I have so much more to prove and so much more to show. You constantly have to be looking ahead.

Greatest Influence: Obviously working with my mom, I think we have a great influence on each other. Having her in my life and us both being able to learn and grow from each other, has made doing this business a journey of sorts. She has been an incredible influence on my life.

Motto for life: Never ever ever give up.

Ashleigh Verrier is a strong-willed, determined and inspiring woman. She is never afraid to keep push the boundaries in the world of fashion as well as in real life. She is a true artist, a true visionary, and the INSPIRE@BTHS Team truly commends her for that. With the help of her mother and business partner, Jude, there are no limits for what Ashleigh Verrier could do. We cannot wait to see what this brilliant,dynamic duo will be up to next.

So everyone, never ever ever give up and constantly look ahead. Be assertive. Be curious and most importantly, be inspired.

Adieu and Arrivaderci everyone! Until next time on INSPIRE@BTHS.

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“Don’t Ever Let Anyone Tell You That You Can’t Do Something”- Reshma Saujani

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Reshma Saujani

“I am a dedicated Democrat, a community activist, a Yale University legal scholar, and an attorney in New York City. But first and foremost, I am the daughter of political refugees whose story embodies the promise of life in America.”– Reshma Saujani

A fresh face in politics, Reshma Saujani is running in the Democratic primary for the U.S. House of Representatives against incumbent Carolyn Maloney in New York’s 14th Congressional district. Saujani, born to political refugees who escaped the devastating regime of Idi Amin in Uganda, has kept the idea of the American Dream close to her heart. Holding a master degree in Public Policy from Harvard and a law degree from Yale, Saujani is a strong believer in “dreaming big and finding your own way.” Saujani has followed a path to success as a hedge fund lawyer on Wall Street and now, a politician.

Ever since she was a child, Reshma Saujani was extremely passionate about law and public service. Saujani says her father, a prominent figure in her life, provided her with the tools for a successful career in both law and politics. “Law and politics were always in my interest. I always wanted to be an attorney. My father would read to me about Gandhi and Eleanor Roosevelt. They were inspiring because they were always working on social justice issues. That was very empowering to me.”

Following her childhood, Saujani used her teen years to build experience in social work. A first generation Indian-American, Saujani understood the importance of introducing diversity to her school and community. In high school, Saujani was president of PRISM – Prejudice Reduction Interested Students Movement – a group focused on celebrating the importance of diversity and combating prejudice.  Saujani was also part of the Debate team and Model UN. “I did a lot in high school to prepare for attorney skills. In college, I was part of student government. I led marches and I was an activist. I was always committed to working on the community, changing my community, and helping my community. It was my drive from the beginning.” That drive and perseverance lead Saujani to an internship at the White House where she not only gathered a wealth of information about public policy but also allowed her passion for politics and public service to flourish. “I love my job. I absolutely love it. I love public service. I learn something new every day. I want to make this country a better place.”

Furthermore, when the INSPIRE@BTHS Team asked if being a first-generation Indian-American woman has ever held her back from doing anything, Saujani was very firm in her answer. “No,” she says. “It has never held me back.” On the contrary, it seems that being a first generation Indian-American woman has pushed her forward. Furthermore, her parents’ background and her experiences growing up function as a basis in not only her campaign for Congress, but also in her personal life. These factors help make up the strong, confident and incredible woman that is Reshma Saujani.

Saujani is also a strong believer in hard work and courage. She constantly stresses one idea: dreaming big. “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Follow your heart. Do what you love and what you’re passionate about. Don’t worry about making money. Money will come. If you feel passionate about something, don’t wait. Get started on it immediately.”

The INSPIRE@BTHS Team then went on to ask Reshma Saujani a few questions out of the Marcel Proust Questionnaire. We believe that this is a great way to get to know our interviewee. Here is a bit of what Saujani had to tell us.

Favorite fictional character: Atticus Finch, the lawyer from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. He was a strong person who chose to fight for justice

Your most treasured object: A bracelet my father gave me when I was thirteen. I wear it whenever there is a big event that I feel anxious about.

The happiest moment of your life: When my baby niece was born. That was a great day.

Greatest extravagance: Black and white pictures.

Favorite journey: When I went to South Africa for the first time in 1998. I worked there after Nelson Mandela came to power.

Greatest achievement: Running for office.

Greatest influence: My father.

Motto for life: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt

A  passionate, determined and strong-minded woman, Saujani is working towards winning the Congressional seat. Brilliant, courageous, and caring, this woman is undoubtedly reaching for the stars. She’s working ardently to help rebuild Main Street and work with Wall Street. The INSPIRE@BTHS Team cannot wait to see what this phenomenal woman will do once in office. Best of luck with the campaign and stay strong!

So everyone, dream big. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t accomplish something. Be assertive. Be curious and most importantly, be inspired.

Adieu and Arrivaderci everyone! Until next time on INSPIRE@BTHS.

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