Wednesday, July 4, 2012

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

Several decades ago, while managing a small dude ranch in the mountains of New Mexico, I met an elderly woman who had served for five years in the Peace Corp after retiring from teaching.  It never occurred to me that anyone over the age of 25 would do such a thing. Since then I’ve harbored a secret desire to “save the world” in some exotic location (with air conditioning). I've also become a sucker for stories about do-gooders, like Three Cups of Tea, and  today’s book review, Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan.

Little Princes is about Grennan’s founding of Next Generation Nepal, a non-profit dedicated to reconnecting trafficked children with their families, and to combating the root causes of child trafficking in rural villages in Nepal. His adventure begins when he signs up to volunteer in a Nepalese orphanage as an excuse to take a sabbatical from his government job in Prague. He quickly falls in love with the little children in the orphanage and, when he discovers that the children were rescued from child traffickers, he becomes determined to return the children to their parents. 
There are a number of conflicts in Grennan’s story that make it compelling. First is the issue of child trafficking. The fact that there are children held in dark basements for months with little food and no sanitation, and then sold into slavery, made me feel separated from reality and sheltered from the ugliness of humanity. It also made me want to toss my computer aside, sell my house and search door to door for unprotected children, which is pretty much what Grennan does in his story. But he soon runs into political and cultural barriers – corruption, poverty, ignorance, etc. – all part of the reality of why child trafficking persists. Click on Read More Below...

One conflict in the book that kept gnawing at the edges of my mind was why Grennan appeared to be the only person dealing with child traffickers in Nepal. In fact he wasn’t, but I chose to ignore this because it interfered with my enjoyment of his tale of heroism. Upon reflection, however, Grennan’s lack of disclosure of other similar efforts seems a little self-aggrandizing.

Another conflict that put a damper on my enjoyment of the book was the fact that the trafficked children were mostly sold by their parents. When Grennan approached the parents, they claimed that they thought they were handing over their children to a better life, one offering education, etc. From other accounts I’ve read, however, and in most cases, families sell their children simply because they cannot afford to feed them, which is a very sad reality with much deeper roots.

In the end, Grennan (pictured) is able to return a few children to their parents, some of who seem genuinely grateful and remorseful. However, one cannot help but wonder if the children, who were very well cared for and educated in the orphanage, were not being sent back to a significantly diminished future.

On a more positive note, Little Princes is full of especially sweet stories about the children, exuding Grennan sincerity and enhancing the reader’s enjoyment. If you’re looking for feel-good, it doesn’t feel much better than Little Princes.

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