Tracy Ross speaks with Conor Grennan, president and founder of Next Generation Nepal and author of Little Princes, the subject of WKCTC's One Book Read.
Grennan worked at the EastWest Institute, a non-governmental organization focused on conflict resolution around political, economic, and security issues across the globe, for eight years before leaving to travel the world in 2004. While traveling, he volunteered at an orphanage in Nepal for three months. He completed his volunteer term and continued on his trip but returned to Nepal to volunteer again in 2006. During his second visit, he discovered that the children in the orphanage were not orphans. Rather, they were trafficked.
Grennan says Nepal’s child trafficking crisis stems from the country’s civil war which lasted from 1996 to 2006 and claimed more than 12,000 lives. In an effort to save their children, parents would send them with people who claimed they could take them to the capital where they would be safe from conflict and receive an education. In reality, Grennan says the children were trafficked into slavery, adoption, or housed in orphanages where their traffickers exploited them to solicit donations and foreign volunteers.
While in Nepal in 2006, Grennan also discovered a group of children living on their own in the streets. He was taking care of them until conditions in Nepal became too dangerous for Grennan to stay and he had to leave before he could settle the children someplace safe. Before anyone else could rescue them, the children were kidnapped by a trafficker.
“Understanding that nobody else was going to go look for them, and believe me, I tried to find other people to go try to find these kids but nobody could really do it, so that was the impetus to go back and search for them and start [Next Generation Nepal],” Grennan said. Next Generation Nepal cares for and helps return trafficked children to their families.
Little Princes is Grennan’s book about his experience in Nepal. “We’ve been incredibly blessed with how this book has turned out and how it’s done and the reach that it’s had. So, one of the things that I’ve really gotten to do is go around to a lot of colleges that have made this a common read for the entire freshman class or towns that have made it their one town read and it’s incredible. Especially sort of doing it intergenerationally… because I think everybody’s anxious to learn about what's going on around the world. And so this is an opportunity to do it.”