Author, Little Princes (William Morrow 2010)
Founder and Executive Director of Next Generation Nepal (NGN)
Married to Liz, one son and a daughter on the way
Conor Grennan: Bringing Home the Little Princes
The 700 Club
TRIP AROUND THE WORLD
Right out of college, Conor Grennan had a good job working for East West Institute, an international public policy think tank. He worked in Prague and later their European Union office in Brussels, Belgium.
Initially, Conor loved it. However, after eight years he found himself bored and needing a radical change in his life. He rashly decided to spend his life savings on a year-long trip around the world.
To squelch criticism from friends and family, Conor decided to volunteer at an orphanage during the first leg of his trip. He admits at this point he had no noble ambitions for his charity work and he “felt guilted into doing it.”
Conor decided he would do his service first so he could enjoy the rest of his trip. After doing some online research, Conor found an orphanage in Nepal, the Little Princes Children’s Home. He decided to volunteer for three months, and then continue on his global adventure. Conor thought this would work out well for him. He had no idea what was in store for him.
LITTLE PRINCES CHILDREN’S HOME
In November 2004, Conor arrived in Nepal and was acclimating to its culture. His ride from the airport to his accommodations introduced him first hand to the country’s civil war. He saw armed soldiers, checkpoints, and armored vehicles. Also, he saw poverty and the religious influences of Buddhism and Hinduism along the way. Two weeks later after orientation and fulfilling his dream of hiking to Mt. Everest’s base camp, Conor went to the village where the orphanage is, Godawari. Six miles from the main road in Kathmandu, it is peaceful compared to the hustle and bustle of the city center.
When he arrived at the gate of the Little Princes Children’s Home, the reality of why he was there hit him. He didn’t have many interactions with children throughout his life and he didn’t feel equipped for the job. However, Conor didn’t have much time to think about that as the group of children happily greeted and jumped on him. At first, the days went slowly for him. He adjusted to the customs and the slower and more peaceful pace of life. After a couple of months, he developed close relationships with the eighteen children.
A few nights before Conor left, this bond solidified. One of the boys, Santosh, became very ill and had to be brought to the hospital. Conor stayed with Santosh and realized that at that moment he was Santosh’s parent. This made an impact on Conor. Unfortunately, Santosh stayed in the hospital as Conor was leaving. On Conor’s last night there, a few of the boys asked when he was coming back. He told them he didn’t know and reminded them of the rest of his journey around the world. Then, he went to his room feeling overwhelmed with emotion. Conor cried, which wasn’t typical for him. He was happy in Godawari and felt torn about leaving. He went back to the boys’ room and told them he would return the following year. He kept his promise.
Conor finished his global tour and returned home in October 2005. In January 2006, exactly a year after he left Nepal, he returned for another three-month period at Little Princes. He was so happy to be back, and was greeted by the same happy group of children. He found that everyone had changed. Most of the volunteers except one, Farid, had returned to their homes. Conor returned to village life and became even closer to the children. There was more political unrest in the country since the last time he was there and now it was closer to the Little Princes home.
During this visit, Conor was shocked to learn that the children at the home were not orphans, but they were trafficked. One day, a mysterious woman came to Little Princes. The more Farid and Conor looked at her they realized she looked like one of the orphans, Nuraj. Upon talking to her through an interpreter they found out she was indeed Nuraj and his brother, Knish’s, mother.
Apparently two years before, the Maoist rebel soldiers were taking over more villages and made a law that each family had to give one child to the rebel army. A man, Golkka, came to the villages offering protection to families from this law and promised to care for the children and their education. (As Conor listened he realized he encountered this man at Little Princes on his last visit.) When Golkka came to their village, Nuraj and Knish’s mother begged him to take her children.
To raise money to pay him, the family borrowed from their relatives and sold everything they had. They would go into debt for the rest of their lives to protect their children. Throughout the villages in this region of Humla many parents were doing the same thing. Nuraj and Knish’s mother packed some of their belongings and let Golkka take them. She never heard from them again. Nuraj’s mother ended up living in a shack close to Little Princes. She heard about it and discovered her sons were there.
Conor brought the boys to their mother, but they wouldn’t speak to her so she left. Conor and Farid found out that Golkka threatened to hurt the boys if they told anyone their mother was alive. Golkka had not kept his promise to care for the children and he abandoned them at the home. After a few days Conor and Farid told the boys it was alright to talk about their mother, who they later visited.
Conor was surprised to learn from Farid that there were seven more children at the house and that Golkka was still trafficking children. Conor and Farid formed a relationship with family. Conor came to realize that the children at Little Princes have volunteers to take care of them but these seven children were unprotected. Conor and Farid knew the urgency of this, tried to find safe homes for them, but couldn’t find any. Unfortunately in April 2006, before they could find homes for the children it was time for Conor to leave.
NEXT GENERATION NEPAL
Upon his return home, Conor started looking for a job, but it was hard for him to get back to “normal life” – his thoughts were still in Nepal. He kept in close contact with Farid. He also received word from another woman, Viva Bell, that the seven children were gone. It turned out that Golkka discovered the children were about to be rescued and took them.
With this news Conor was anxious to get back to Nepal but knew he needed to have a plan and raise money. One thing led to another and before he knew it he had a plan for a non-profit organization, Next Generation Nepal (NGN). He continued to plan, network, brainstorm, and fund raise to rescue the seven children and others like them. Conor raised enough money for a plane ticket back to Nepal and to fund a small home for a few months. In September 2006, he was back in Nepal. The country was different than it was in April.
Conor received his standard greeting from the children at Little Princes. That evening, Conor prayed for Nepal and the seven children, even though he hadn’t thought about God since he was ten-years-old. During this trip he connected with some of the people he was networking with, like Anne Howe, Viva Bell, and Jacky Buk. They quickly began to look for the seven lost children. At the end of September he received an e-mail that caught his attention. A woman named Liz was inquiring about NGN. They had a lot in common.
Conor found he liked Liz immediately and they became friends. Meanwhile, Conor continued to search for the seven children. One day, one of the children was found and Conor told Liz. Liz was a Christian and told Conor that she believed that God wanted Conor to find the other children. One by one the children were being found. By mid-November, six of the seven children were found and safely placed in the Umbrella Home, run by Viva and Jacky. Also, Conor and Farid opened the first NGN children’s home.
Conor and Liz continued to e-mail frequently. He invited Liz to visit since she was nearby on a mission trip in India. Around Christmas she visited him for a couple of days. After that visit Conor knew he loved Liz. Following another visit, Conor bought a Bible but didn’t tell Liz. He wanted to rediscover Christianity for himself and didn’t want Liz to think she was the reason for it. When he read the first page of one of the Gospels it felt like home. Amid the Buddhist and Hindu influences around him in Nepal, Conor found that Christianity resonated with him.
By early 2007, the seventh child was safely found. NGN’s work continued to grow and still continues to grow. To this day the organization has helped reunite 400 families in Nepal and has three transitional homes for children. In partnership with local and international organizations NGN is working on child protection and community development as trafficking prevention. Conor and Liz are also married and are expecting their second child, a daughter. They are on the board of NGN, are based in Connecticut, and travel twice a year to Nepal.
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
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Are you facing a difficult situation?
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