Friday, January 21, 2011

Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal

In need of some fun and adventure, 30-year-old Conor Grennan traded in his day job for a year-long trip around the globe, a journey that began with a three-month stint volunteering at the Little Princes Orphanage in war-torn Nepal. But what began as a lark became a passionate commitment that would transform the young American and the lives of countless others.

Within minutes of his arrival, Grennan was surrounded by a horde of gleeful boys and girls showering him with warm welcomes. Yet as he soon learned, the children’s cheery smiles belied years of pain and abuse, for many of the boys and girls at Little Princes were not orphans at all, but victims rescued from human traffickers. Moved by their plight, Grennan vowed that when his trip was over he would return to the children of Little Princes and eventually reunite them with their families—a promise he would risk his life to keep.

Little Princes is the powerful story of a soul’s awakening and a reflection of the noblest and darkest of human intent. It is a heartwrenching true tale of the power of optimism, love, and dedication to overcome greed, violence, and hate. And it is an unforgettable account of children, families, and one man whose decision to take a stand makes the world a better place for all of us. 

My take:  I simply can not rant and rave enough about this book.  I was immediately drawn to this story because of one of the children in this picture. No, not the alarmingly handsome and strapping boy eating the neon green sugar ball the size of his own head(although, he is one of my favorite people in the world), but his darker skinned counter-part, who happens to be his half Nepalese cousin.
Don't worry.  He's not an orphan. He belongs to my brother and his American wife. In fact, she became a full citizen one year ago this week. 5 years ago she stepped onto her first airplane and said goodbye to the only culture she had ever known.  She said hello to a crazy family who were loud, couldn't understand her English and looked at her blankly, and ate something green (lettuce) at every meal on vacation.

She cried a lot that first year.
I am often stunned by the beauty of this family.  I'm in there.  I'm the pretty one.

Please also note that within all those blonds and reds, there is another darker skinned teenager. He is my 100% American nephew. Two years ago he was an orphan in Katmandu.  The only child of Sita's sister, he fell into her care when his mother and grandfather died in a tragic bus accident when he was a small boy.  Fortunately, he had a loving aunt who quickly took him in as she had been taken in years ago by a distant relative when her mother died.  At the time, she lived as a slave.  Another distant relative came to visit and found a skinny 10 year old girl doing all the cooking, cleaning, and shopping.  He was enraged and took her home with him.  

Nepal is such a small country and has little to boast besides an entrance to the world's tallest mountain. When my brother informed us he had married a woman while in Katmandu, we had to scramble to even find it on the map.

Nepal has also been in the throes of civil war for about a decade.  Between the Nationalists and the Maoists, Nepal has been in constant upheaval.  The terrain of Nepal is often difficult and isolated.  Villages dot the mountainsides where simple people live simple lives.  But then the Maoists arrived in those villages and began recruiting the children.  In an effort to preserve their children, parents gave their children to men who promised a good education and safe childhood for a price - often resulting in all they had. Child trafficking was born. 

The author is a fantastic story teller.  His humor never wanes.  He recalls interactions and conversations in great detail and describes the first children with so much fondness, I fell in love with them, too.  Being an overgrown child, Conor quickly fit right in.  Three months is all he planned to give and then he was off to travel the world, return to the states, and be a grown up in the corporate world. Instead, he is drawn again to the orphans where he discovers that at least two of them are not really orphans.  At the same time, he meets 7 more who are dangerously housed and exposed.  He secures a safe orphanage for them and is assured of their placement.  With rising political tensions, Conor leaves the country again.  Once home, he discovers that the 7 children had disappeared and didn't make it to the orphanage. 

Naturally, Conor returns to Nepal where he is introduced to a political climate that is dangerous and unsteady.  A culture that is starkly contrasted to one where bureaucracies are in place to protect children.  Child slavery, human trafficking, illegal orphanages, and complete poverty and starvation are not uncommon.  At the same time, a warm, brotherly relationship develops between the author and the boys from the original orphanage. Their interactions elicited loud laughter from this reader. 

I loved this book.  It was touching, hilarious, heartwarming, heartbreaking, and life changing.

You can read more about Conor Grennan's work at

Conor's facebook page is right here.  Friend him.  We can all use friends!

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