Imagine the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Thousands of people displaced and in danger. Families separated and unsure where to go or what to do. A government in chaos, unable (at least initially) to be of any assistance. Then imagine that this chaos had lasted an ENTIRE decade. That some of these families were so poor and so desperate to keep their children safe, that they sold just about every possession they owned in order to PAY to try and keep their children from being conscripted into a rebel army that had formed in opposition to the government. Then imagine that, far from being the safe haven they had imagined, these families never heard from their beloved children again. As days turned into weeks, then into months that turned into years, they realized their children had just disappeared.
This is the situation in Nepal. From 1996-2006, Nepal suffered through a horrible civil war between the monarchy and Maoist rebels. The country was torn apart. Elementary-aged children were abducted by the rebels to serve in any capacity. And of course, as is so often the case, an even darker force came into play. Using fear as their weapon, child traffickers took thousands of children to "safety" - taking enormous sums of money and then turning around and either abandoning them hundreds of miles from home, or using them to make more money in donations that they pocketed while the children lived in squalor.
Little Princes is the story of one man who went to Nepal to volunteer for 3 months because he thought it would sound impressive. Conor Grennan decided he was going to take a year off and travel the world, using the volunteer time to make it sound better to his friends and family. However, he found that when when his 3 months as a volunteer were over, he left a large part of his heart behind. So he went back. And then he went back again, with a mission to help these "orphaned" children find their parents again.
I found Little Princes extremely well-written and incredibly heart-warming. Grennan was able to make Nepal come alive, and the children just leapt off the page and right into my heart. I giggled at their antics and I cried with their pain. I empathized with Farid and Conor as they struggled to help these children in a place where the government was often corrupt and where things run on "Nepal time" - so much slower than our own. And then, after I finished reading the book (within a day), I went to [...] to learn more.
I cannot recommend this book more highly. It's fun and heart-breaking, it's informative and it has a wonderful message to send. You CAN make a difference, one person at a time.
on January 25, 2011
Conor Grennan's Little Princes' offers one of those rare reading experiences that are all of joyful, gripping and transformative. The story is a serious one - about one man's decision to set aside his own self interest to serve an incredibly sympathetic and needy group of people in a region to which he - at first - has little personal connection. Remarkably, Grennant tells his story of his personal transformation and his quest to help these people in a relatively light and genuinelyvery funny way. Grennan's writing moves at a fast pace - making it difficult to put down and exciting to resume. I would predict that reading this book will span more than a weekend for most! Moreover, as he narrates the story of his quest to reunite the vulnerable children with their parents, Grennan touches on themes of self-interest verses the interest of others who are far more needy, the touching and inspiring resolve of people who survive with so little advantage, and through the account of Grennan's interaction with the children's parents- the importance (and challenge) of honoring others who have so little by Western standards but yet show such amazing humility, dignity and strength.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of this book is that as a true story, the reader can continue to engage with the infectiously optimistic cast of characters by following the progress of the real life non-profit - Next Generation Nepal - that Grennan and others went on to build. Our sadness about the childrens' plight and their families poverty is greatly assuaged by the hope and excitement of Next Generation Nepal's continued progress. Overall, "Little Princes" is a fantastic read - and a story that you will think about for months even years to come...
on October 31, 2010
I ordered this book for several reasons:
1. Nepal is a part of the world of which I am woefully ignorant.
2. The use and abuse of children is a problem about which I know too much
3. I am a sucker for the underdog
After reading it, I can say that I learned a lot about Nepal and child trafficking, my spirit was recharged despite expanded awareness of the reality of life, and my guy won. Conor Grennan's life is in flux so to find some adventure in a way that does not appear to be entirely self-serving, he volunteers for 3 months at children's home in Kathmandu. What he learns about the children (all who were victims of a lucrative trafficking scheme) and himself reshapes his perspective on life. After completing his world trip, he returned to the Little Prince's home with the goal of reconnecting the families. In spite of the bureaucratic, political, cultural, physical, climatic and emotional barriers, he succeeds. This is a well told story about the sacrifices parents make to provide a better life for their children, the strong bond between a child and his parent and the truth that making the world peaceful is the responsibility of every individual. Informative, honest and critical in a way that seeks to nurture rather than destroy, "Little Princes" challenges the reader to examine their own values, set aside judgment and take some action to become and advocate for the vulnerable people that cross their paths.
When Irish American Conor Grennan decides to take a whirlwind year-long trip around the world, he opts to spend his first three months volunteering at a children's orphanage in Nepal. The instant he walked through the gates of Little Princes, he was mobbed by laughing little boys attaching themselves to his legs like leeches hungry for blood. Running, playing, giggling children swarmed Conor from the moment he arrived, so ecstatic to have a foreigner visiting them. For Conor it was love at first sight, although he was a bit terrified. Never had he spent time with children, never mind work with them for three months.
After settling in and getting to know the children of Little Princes, the facility high in the Nepali Himalayas, Conor finds he loves Nepal and all the hazards, poverty, and trials that come with it. In 2004 when he steps off the plane from America, a Maoist civil war is raging around him. Nepali villagers are hungry and starvation is a large problem. Winters are harsh in the Himalayas, the cold freezing climate hardens the people of Nepal as they eek out a meager existence and the food shortages of winter. However, impoverished people, little heat, border patrols, and starving children, still doesn't put Conor off. For the next few months he digs in to help the facility and works with these charming love-starved kids with great enthusiasm. Rice bowl after rice bowl, Conor finds he has found his life's calling.
Weeks into his assignment, through various sources, Conor learns that the kids of Little Princes are not really orphans. Shockingly the staff learns that these children were stolen. Child trafficking runs rampant in Nepal, thousands of children have been taken from their families. Parents are scammed by men who knock on village doors offering to take children away from the war, where they will be taken to a facility that will be safe from the danger, fed well, and schooled. Believing these men, parents pay high prices to keep their children safe only to be swindled. When months and years go by, both child and parents believe each other dead.
Conor and the staff at Little Princes are outraged to hear this disheartening news. Together they form a plan, gather resources, devise fund-raising programs, and ambitiously embark on a hell-bound mission to reunite these adorable imps with their mothers and fathers. Conor and his assistant Farid plan and complete mission after mission, endangering their lives as they hike through the treacherous mountains and locate one family after another hidden within the small villages of Nepal. Threatened by Maoist soldiers at gun point, locked in place by snow blizzards unable to keep moving, hiding themselves in family huts away from roaming militia, Farid and Conor never give up as one family after another are found.
This profound and eye-opening memoir is one of the best I've read yet. In the style of Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea only much better, Little Princes is extremely heartwarming. Readers will fall head over heels with the kids who offer nothing but hugs and unlimited affection for Conor, and will not be able to put the book down once turning that first page that will take them on a journey they won't forget. I laughed at the author's dry sense of humor, I cried when these children both broke my heart and in turn made me smile. How these children persevered and knew unlimited joy during these times of chaos and crimes against them was simply beyond inspiring. Their faith in Conor, their playfulness and insight into his own heart when he falls in love, showed a level of uncanny intelligence and a depth of human compassion that will just astonish readers everywhere. This book is one of those that you say "Standing Ovation Please"!!!
on February 21, 2011
I remember reading Conor's blog and experiencing much of what's in the book in semi-real time - I laughed (often until I cried) at his travel adventures and stories of the kids at Little Princes, and then later I cried outright and repeatedly with joy.
Conor persevered in the face of what seemed like insurmountable odds, perhaps because he didn't know any better (but really, that's how lots of previously-thought-impossible stuff gets done in this world), and he and his team have made a profound difference in the lives of many people in Nepal. Reading this book reminded me of all the things I felt when reading the blog - especially how one bull-headed person with a big heart can make an enormous impact in the world. Conor's story can be a lesson to everyone who thinks their voice is too small to be heard.
Oh, and the big bonus here is that the book is well-written. This is an important story, well-told.
on January 19, 2015
Love this book. I was reading on my Kindle in 14 different air flights, while I was traveling in Asia last month. I could not put it down. It is a page turner. You will love this book too. One of the location of my visits is Kathmandu, Nepal. I quickly identified with the poverty, suffering and Little Princes described in this book. It is an amazing story.
Congrats, Conor, you are best role model for a global citizen that truly cares and gives your 100% to help them.
on April 14, 2015
This was an amazing look at people and cultures that I had never been completely aware of. It renews my faith in the basic goodness of people and the great things they can accomplish when driven by the desire to make the world a better place. The children are amazing and resilient. Conor loses himself in service to these children.....but finds the man he was really meant to be.
on November 30, 2015
While getting assigned Little Princes as my reading book for my college class, I was very fascinated about how one man could leave his nice middle-class home in the United States to go to a place full of poverty and experience a once in a lifetime adventure. His experience with the country of Nepal and the orphanage was very insightful on a 3rd world countries. While reading this book, it made me recognize and reflect on the differences between the United States and Nepal. Conor Grennan brings a great experience to the reader in his humor, reflection, and his experiences in the book. I was happy through most of the book because I was enjoying how he put a bunch of information and dedication in his work to help the children in Nepal and make Next Generation Nepal for orphans. Sadly, it slowly dies down after he forms everything. Then it starts to literally talk about Liz in almost every chapter. I started to get annoyed on how everything after that was about her—either it was about him missing her emails or seeing her, etc. It felt like after I read it that it was really just about how he met her instead of the adventure that he experienced. I know I may be going rough on the book, but that was how I felt about it. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to certain people. If you are looking for a love story / life experience on other living experiences in the world, I recommend it then.
on February 16, 2016
Having just interviewed Conor Grennan for our Inspire Nation Show, I can say, this book needs to be made into a movie!
Conor's so incredibly down to earth, and yet his story so incredible...and it's true!!! I was touched so much by this story, and can't remember the last time I cried so much while reading. I won't give away the ending, but suffice it to say, Conor's my hero!
I can't recommend this book enough. It'll make you laugh and cry, look at your life differently, realize how lucky each of us is, no matter our circumstances, and motivate us to help others as well. Who could as for more???
Thank you Conor!!! Now where's that Hollywood movie??? Producers, directors, are you listening?!?!?
on March 1, 2012
I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. It is fairly well written, but it seemed to me to be lacking in insight about the children and their parents. Perhaps because of the language barrier, we really don't get to know much about any of the people in Nepal. Also, because the author was forever going back and forth from Nepal to the U.S., the book seems disjointed to me. While the effort to save these children is admirable, at no point do we get to know exactly what the children think and want. And short shrift is given at the end to explaining which children were reunited with their parents and how that affected them given that it must have been very traumatic to be back in the poor villages from whence they came. At the end of the book, I was left with more questions than answers.