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After the scandal of Three Cups of Tea, I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to read what seemed to be a similar book, but Little Princes was chosen by my book club. It’s the story of a man who volunteers for a Nepalese orphanage from fairly selfish motives but finds himself drawn in because of his affection for the children to do more.
Conor Grennan explains that he volunteered to work in the Little Princes orphanage in Nepal so that his decision to take a year off from work to travel wouldn’t look so selfish to others. This reasoning is an odd thing to admit and made me puzzle about his character. Still, once in place, he enjoyed work with the children enough to promise to come back.
It is right after he returned to Nepal that he met seven children from a remote province called Humla. Like many of the children, he learned, they were sent away by their parents from the district for their safety during civil war. What the parents didn’t know was that they were paying human traffickers, who got the children to Kathmandu and then sold them or abandoned them. Most of the children thought their parents were dead, and most of the parents had had no news of their children for years.
This was all to come out after Conor found the seven children from Humla in the custody of the wife of one of the traffickers. Just before he left the country again, he struggled to find a home that would take them in. A charity called the Umbrella Foundation, which had several orphanages, agreed. But after Conor returned home again, he learned that the trafficker had found out what was going on and removed the children before the Umbrella Foundation could fetch them.
Conor then decided to create his own foundation to work against child trafficking in Nepal. His first goal was to find those seven children. But after discovering that the mother of two of the children was alive and had not known of her children’s plight, he also decided to travel to Maoist Humla and try to find the parents of the seven children, as well as those of the children in Little Princes.
Conor does not do this all by himself. He has help from Gyan, a child welfare official; his coworker Farid, who founds an orphanage with him; the Nepalese men who go with him to Humla as guides and interpreters; and various European aid workers. Conor and the others eventually find the seven children and locate many parents in Humla, some of whom arrive to take their children back. The book also tells us how Conor met the woman he is now married to.
This book is interesting and makes you think about how much good can be done in poor countries with a small amount of money. The efforts of Grennan’s foundation and its results seem to be legitimate and worthy. What wasn’t entirely clear was how closely Grennan remains involved in the work now that he lives in Connecticut with his wife and child.