How often do you get to meet your favorite authors? Not that often, am I right! Luckily Conor Grennan, bestselling author of Little Princes, took some time off from his book tour to join us today on Facebook, for a quick chat.
If you haven’t picked up a copy of Little Princes yet, you’re going to want to after hearing all about Conor’s adventures. Read on for more about coming face to face with a child trafficker, dealing with dysentery, and the joys of eating an apple.
UncommonGoods: Our first question is from Brittany: How did you get your start in your journeys for helping the orphaned and what prompted to you seek out that path? Besides your excellent writing, do you have any other big humanitarian goals in store?
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Conor Grennan: Thanks for the question, and great to be here!!
My journey actually began almost by accident – I wanted to travel the world to have fun, and I was sort of guilted into volunteering! I went to Nepal and met the kids, and it wasn’t long before… I fell in love with them. My big humanitarian goals are really focused on NGN right now and finding ways to raise money – that allows us to hire more staff to get into the mountains to find more families of trafficked kids.
UncommonGoods: Thanks Conor, and Brittany, who’s the first winner of a hardcover signed copy of Little Princes. Ask a question for a chance to win a copy of your own!
UncommonGoods: Next question is from April: What’s next for the children of the Little Princes orphanage? How is your (and their) story moving forward?
Conor Grennan: We’re hoping that we can get just about all of the children of the Little Princes home living with their families, especially the young ones. They are back living in Humla, in the remote region where they’re from – last year we built a house for them to be close to their families.
For the oldest children, we are helping them finish their education in Kathmandu – the exciting thing is that they are starting to work with us at Next Generation Nepal to find families and raise awareness over trafficking! So I guess our story is moving forward together!
Natalie Gerow: Has Jagrit seen his father? Has he finally eaten one of his delicious apples? Those who haven’t read the book will think my question is silly, but I really grew to like Jagrit!
Conor Grennan: Hi Natalie! Jagrit did finally get to meet his father! It was quite an adventure for this 15 year old boy who had grown up in the city to go back to his village and meet his family that he had presumed died in the war. And yes, he did finally eat an apple, and bragged about it nonstop for a while :-). He is one of my favorite kids, I just saw him again back in October when I went to visit.
UncommonGoods: Great question Natalie! Next up is Tom Epting, co-founder of UncommonGoods. He wants to know: “What are some small things individual people can actually do to make a difference? Sometimes these issues look so large and overwhelming that we don’t know how to get started or whether we can in fact make any difference.”
Barbara Becker: Are you ever scared trekking through the mountains of Nepal? (Drew & Evan – ages 7 & 11)
Mary Simmerling: HI Conor, For those of us who haven’t had the chance to read your book yet, can you give us a brief background about the nature of the trafficking – for what purpose/s are these children trafficked? Also, what do you estimate the incidence to be?
UncommonGoods: And while Conor is typing up his answers, check out the beginnings of Conor’s work in Nepal: http://www.nextgenerationnepal.org/How_It_All_Began
Conor Grennan: I love this question Tom – because this is how I felt every day before I volunteered. I didn’t want to even start, because it felt so overwhelming. What I learned was that we don’t have to think about it like that. I believe we have a responsibility to get out there and at least see the world, see how a certain disadvantaged group lives, either in your community or on the other side of the world. And then just consider seeing if you can help one of those people. These days, when I feel overwhelmed, I remember that the next child I help is somebody’s son or daughter – just like my son. That helps me keep going.
Ashley Haas: you talked about only a few girls at the home. how are they doing? especially little leena?
Conor Grennan: Hey Drew and Evan! Great to hear from you. Yes – I was definitely nervous trekking through the mountains sometimes! Mostly only when I did something dumb, like try to trek at night without a good flashlight. And sometimes I worried that if I got hurt, I would have to wait for help to come, since there are no cars or ambulances or anything. But mostly I just concentrated on each step and trying to be careful, knowing that I had more families to find! (Hope to see you guys again soon!)
UncommonGoods: Drew and Evan, thanks for your question. Congrats– we’re going to send you a signed copy of Little Princes! And for everyone else, if you purchase Little Princes today at http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/little-princes, and choose Next Generation Nepal at checkout, we’ll donate $2 to this great cause!
Conor Grennan: Hi Mary – yes, absolutely. The background is that parents in remote villages, especially during the war, worried about the safety of their children. During the civil war (1996-2006), Maoist rebels abducted children to take them into the arm…y. Parents were desperate to save their children. Then a man came through the village and offered to take them to the safety of the King-controlled Kathmandu Valley, very far away. Parents paid enormous sums for this “service” – going into debt for years. The man then simply abandoned these children, or sold them as slaves, or put them up for illegal international adoption. So it’s an unusual kind of trafficking but it has affected thousands of children in Nepal.
Conor Grennan: Hi Ashley – the girls are doing great – thanks for asking! Only about 10% of the kids are girls – usually parents send away their boys to get the education, and they end up getting trafficked. I was able to see them and Leena when I visited a couple of months ago – Leena is growing up fast!! They wanted to hear all about my son, and they demanded naming rights for my expected daughter :-).
UncommonGoods: Kaia, aged 10, had this next question to ask. And Kaia has won a signed copy 2. Only 2 copies next, so be sure to comment for a chance to win. Kaia says: Dear Mr. Grennan, I was wondering how you felt when you met the guy that was starving the kids? Thank you.
Barbara Becker: Drew & Evan volunteer to give their signed copy to someone else — we were lucky enough to get to hear Conor do a reading!
Conor Grennan: Hi Kaia, thanks for your question. It was really tough to meet the man, Golkka, who I knew was trafficking all the children. The difficult part was that I had to be respectful, because we didn’t want to provoke any reaction from him – he was still a powerful man who could harm the children. But I couldn’t believe that somebody would mistreat kids like that – it only made me work harder to try to save more kids.
UncommonGoods: Next up is a question from Suzanne. (And Suzanne you also won a book!): Conor, I’ve been to Nepal as a tourist and was enchanted (as well as delirious from amoebic dysentery picked up in Chitwan, but that’s another story). How does one find out about volunteer opportunities in third world countries?
Conor Grennan: Hi Suzanne! Yes – dysentery. No fun. You ask a good question. When I did it, I literally did an internet search for opportunities in Nepal, but I think there are better ways to go about it. There are organizations that will set it up for yo…u, but I find they are quite expensive. I would look in your bookstore or library for lists of local organizations in the countries you want to go visit – I think Lonely Planet even has a book on volunteering. Moreover, I find that some travel forums are quite good for that – again, Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree (travel forum) is excellent in my experience (btw, I have no connection to Lonely Planet.) The more research you can do, the better!
UncommonGoods: Okay, we’ve got time for one last question, and this one comes from MonicaW: My question for Conor is – have any of the children at Little Princes become advisors or researchers for Next Generation Nepal?
UncommonGoods: While Conor is answering, take a minute to watch Conor in Nepal with some of the kids from Little Princes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mehH6P72as
Conor Grennan: Hi Monica – I’m happy to say they have! The oldest kids are now in their mid-teens (time flies!!), and they really want to give back to their community. One, Santosh, has found a way to start a library in his village. The oldest boy has actually joined us on our search for parents – it’s amazing, because he is the best possible witness and advocate on behalf of trafficked children – he was one himself. We are so proud of them!!
Lauren Nemeth: Conor, how has working with the children in Nepal impacted your relationship with your own son?
UncommonGoods: Thanks everyone who dropped in for our chat today. Remember, you can choose Next Generation Nepal at checkout, & today we’ll double our donation amount to the kids of Little Princes. Conor, do you want to say a few closing remarks?
Conor Grennan: Hey Lauren – glad I caught you! It’s really impacted my work a lot. Sometimes it makes it more difficult, because I naturally put my son into those positions, and it makes it hard to think about the kids we haven’t gotten to yet. But mostly I just so feel for the parents out there, and realize how important our work is.
Conor Grennan: Thank you so much to everybody who joined the discussion, and of course to UncommonGoods!! What a great organization. And I just wanted to remind everybody to check out www.nextgenerationnepal.org and see some great slide shows of the kids …and our searches for families in the remote mountains. We so appreciate all of your support!
Lastly – in case anyone is near Spring Lake, NJ on Monday, at the Public Library at 7:30p.m.!
Thanks everyone! Have a great weekend!