Bringing Home the Lost Children of Nepal
If you'd like to read a book and be inspired, brought to tears and left empowered by hope and faith, pick up Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal.
The story, by Conor Grennan, chronicles his life-changing journey.
In 2004, the 29-year-old quit his job, took his savings and planned a year-long trip around the world. He didn't want to seem too indulgent and needed a good pick-up line for the ladies; so he planned to spend the first three months in Nepal volunteering with orphans.
While there, Conor unexpectedly fell in love with the 18 children at Little Princes children's home. He also discovered they were not orphans.
Nepal was in the midst of a civil war, and the kids had been trafficked from their villages, hundreds of miles away.
Under false pretenses, traffickers convinced parents in war-torn rural areas that they would give their child safety and an education until the war was over. Parents paid the traffickers exorbitant fees to keep their children out of harm's way.
Unwittingly, the parents were sending their kids off to become servants, beggars or "orphans."
Conor tells TakePart that during the civil war "a deluge of kids came into Khatmandu. There were thousands of them, and about 15,000 are still lost."
After he realized what was happening,
Conor met more trafficked children, seven of whom were starving and needed his immediate help.
The war was ending. He had everything set to take them to safety. Somehow the trafficker got to the kids first.
Conor was back in the U.S. when word came that the kids were gone.
"It was terrible," he says, "because you've watched the revolution unfold. You've seen Nepal become sort of this free country. You thought of these kids a million times since you left. To hear that they're gone, that this trafficker has a head start on you, and the kids have been sold off... I thought I'm never going to find these kids."
Conor resisted the urge to rush back to Nepal. "I knew I had to do it smart," he says. "I couldn't just go there without money or any way of protecting them."
In 2006, Conor spent a few months scraping together the funds to start Next Generation Nepal, a foundation and home for trafficked children. With the help of child advocates he met in Nepal, he returned to Khatmandu and found each and every one of the seven children.
His next mission was to find their families.
Trekking for weeks in the mountains, Conor crossed to Humla. His first journey reconnected 24 families. Since 2006, he and Next Generation Nepal have reconnected close to 400 kids with their families.
One boy, Jagrit, thought his parents were dead.
The child trafficker had shown Jagrit false death certificates for his parents to prove the boy was an orphan. Conor tracked Jagrit's parents and found them still alive.
When kids like Jagrit saw their families again, Conor says, "At first, it was awkward. They had forgotten how to speak the local dialect, and their families didn't understand why their kids couldn't communicate. They had been trafficked so long ago."
The children came around, he says, and "all of a sudden, they were back to being village kids."
"I know the kids as being joyous and fun," Conor says, "but I've never seen them like I've seen them with their families. It's just a real deep groundedness and a much deeper sort of joy than a fleeting fun moment."
Recently, Conor says, Next Generation Nepal has "achieved something we've dreamed about for a long time."
In Humla, where many of the kids are from, the organization has opened a second children's home. It is also working to improve conditions at the local school.
"There's probably 30 or so kids living back with their families and learning to farm."
Conor and his team hope to keep finding more families. "Thousands of kids are still abandoned and are desperately in need of finding their families and getting rescued."
When you purchase Conor's book, Little Princes, you help these kids.
A portion of the proceeds goes to Next Generation Nepal's efforts to reconnect the lost children of Nepal with their loved ones.