Anish’s parents probably hadn’t seen a white person before. Now, not only was there a white man in their village, but Conor Grennan had pictures of their missing son, Anish, whom they had mourned every day for the past 4 years.
Both parent sobbed. This was the miracle they had prayed for daily. Their son was alive and they would see him again.
It’s a safe bet that Anish’s family and the 350 plus other families Conor Grennan has helped reunite would be surprised at how Conor got into the business of saving kids . . .
Right before his 30th birthday Conor Grennan planned a year-long trip around the world. As part of his trip, Connor decided to volunteer at an orphanage. Conor said he saw two benefits to spending some time volunteering. First, family members and friends would stop criticizing his planned trip as self-indulgent. And, he saw volunteering as a great line for picking up women.
When Conor arrived at the Little Princes Orphanage in Nepal, he regretted his decision. “I hadn’t realized until that moment how much I did not want to walk through that gate. What I wanted was to tell people I had volunteered in an orphanage, [not actually do it],” he said.
Yet, while volunteering at the orphanage Conor Grennan fell in love with the children and his job. Sometimes all you have to do is spend time helping others, and you grow to embrace it.
It was towards the end of the volunteer stint that Conor met the mother of two of the children in the orphanage.
From the mom, Conor learned the truth about the children in his care.
They weren’t orphans.
They had been abducted.
At the time there was a civil war in Nepal and the Maoist army would come into villages to take male children for their armies. So, the parents would go bankrupt to send their children with government officials or other people who promised to bring the children to schools in safe areas of Nepal.
Parents sold their homes and moved into single-room huts with their neighbors, sold their land, livestock and possessions and borrowed money. Families went into debt for the rest of their lives and put the rest of their family at risk to save their children.
Unfortunately, the traffickers didn’t place the children in schools. The traffickers made the kids beg for money, abandoned the children or sold them into servitude or the sex industry far from their parents. And, as if the kids’ plight wasn’t bad enough, traffickers convinced kids that their parents were dead or didn’t want them. That’s one reason why the kids who wound up in orphanages rarely spoke about their parents.
The parents figured out that their children had been abducted after walking days to get to a phone to check in on their kids. The numbers the parents had been given were fake.
After discovering this horror Conor began working to reunite the kids in his orphanage with their families.
Conor got all the information the kids could remember about their families and then visited the remote region of Nepal where the children were born searching for and finding their parents.
As Conor started reuniting families, he heard from other families looking for their children and began helping to reunite kids from other orphanages with their parents.
Conor also worked with authorities to find children who were being exploited and bring those kids to orphanages. Then Conor would try to find their parents.
He co-founded Next Generation Nepal (NGN) in 2006 a nonprofit with the mission to save and reunite children with their families.
How fortunate that Conor Grennan seems to have had a mid-life crisis at the age of 30 and needed a trip around the world. And, that it turns out saving kids was his calling.
As for his pick-up line, he met his wife, Liz, when she read about NGN and emailed Conor for some advice about volunteering. They now live in Connecticut with their two kids. Conor Grennan is President of NGN, which continues to bring Nepalese kids and their families together.
Conor Grennan’s story provides a great reason for everyone to give volunteering a chance. Who knows where it might lead.
Conor Grennan’s book, Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal, is an amazing read about his experience in Nepal and his nonprofit NGN.