Breezy Mama‘s Beauty Editor, Kelly MacNeal, nabs best selling author Conor Grennan, who wrote the book, Little Princes-One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal, to talk about being single in the midst of hundreds of kids, how his first perspective of marriage seemed like constant dating, and how being a father melts his heart.
Need to be inspired? Or maybe need the next good read for your book club? Then I have the book for you! Little Princes by Conor Grennan is a funny, heartbreaking and touching true story of his journey to Little Princes orphanage in Nepal as a volunteer. What was supposed to be just a 2 month stopover on his yearlong trip around the world turned into something much bigger. Conor soon discovered something he could not ignore. These children were not orphans. Their parents in remote villages were promised a better life for their children and had unknowingly given them away to child traffickers. The children were enslaved and then left miles away from home. The “lucky” ones were rescued and placed in orphanages. The story follows Conor’s journey to find these lost children’s parents through treacherous circumstances and in the midst of it all, find the love of his life (and one of my best friends!), Liz.
I asked Conor if he would do an exclusive interview with me for Breezy Mama on what lead him to Nepal, how we can help these orphans thousands of miles away, and what it is like to be a husband and dad (he and Liz have a 2 year old son and a baby girl due this month). He was gracious enough to say, “Yes!” Friendship with the wife has its privileges! Here’s our interview:
In the beginning of the book you “claim” that your motivation to work in an orphanage was to have a good story to pick up chicks! But really something deeper must have drawn you to Nepal and the orphanage. What was it?
Well, it wasn’t just chicks – it was people in general. It just sounded so impressive, and such a good story. But it’s true, there was more to it as well. I’d worked at a public policy think tank in Europe with very high levels of government for eight years, and I was never sure if I was making much of a difference. This was a chance to really work at the grassroots level, to see what life was like.
As for Nepal, I’d gotten a postcard years earlier from my brother, and it just seemed like the most exotic place in the world. I was desperate to see it up close, and this offered a great opportunity to get to know it a little better.
HOW did you handle, day in and day out being with a HOUSEFUL of kids all at once? Especially being a single man, no kids of your own! I only have THREE and they are my own flesh and blood and there are days when I want to run away and never come back!
If I hadn’t been nine thousand miles from home, I would have run away and never come back in those early days. It was just so overwhelming. I thought the day was almost over, and I’d look at my watch and see that it was about 10:30 a.m.
As it turned out, the key to success was realizing just how independent they could be. I think as caretakers, and even as parents, we think sometimes that children need all of our attention. But if we just let them, they’re remarkably self-sufficient when it comes to amusing themselves. That kept me sane!
I loved when you talked about the resourcefulness of the children, making toy cars out of a plastic water bottle and a couple of pieces of wire. I think that’s how all children innately are. My kids are usually way more fascinated with the big cardboard box their present came in than the present itself! What did you find were the biggest similarities and/or differences between these children and children in the United States?
The funny thing is that after a few months (it did take that long) I started to realize that the kids in Nepal were actually no different from the kids in the US at all – it was Nepal that was different. Kids not only make do with what they have, they don’t even think about what they are missing. It’s a wonderful thing – it just is such a great testimony to how resilient they really are and really can be under any circumstances. We are all just products of our environment, I’ve come to believe.
It also made me grow so much closer to the kids, knowing that they were just like my own children, just living a little farther away.
Soon after you arrived at Little Princes orphanage your eyes were opened to the fact that these kids were not really orphans at all but rather victims of child trafficking. These kids’ parents had given their children away having been promised that their children would have a better life. Instead they were made slaves under an evil man who had strong ties to the government. Did you ever feel like this was a battle that just could not be won and there was nothing you could really do? It is kind of a David vs. Goliath situation! What gave you the drive to do something about it?
Yes, I often thought there was little we could do in the grand scheme. We wouldn’t even be able to find all the kids, let alone rescue them, let alone find their families. But we saw that we could make some difference, that we could find ways of helping the children we found.
I think that’s what gave me the drive. I began thinking of it from the perspective of the individual parents. Imagine if you knew your child was out there, and you knew that somebody had found a way to find them, that they were really close, but then they gave up, using the excuse “Well, I would, but the problem is just too overwhelming, I’m just going to give up.” Wouldn’t you beg that person to continue, to find just one more child, knowing it could be yours?
Well, I admire that answer because many people would turn a blind eye on the situation. Not necessarily because they didn’t care about these kids, but purely because of the insurmountable odds of the situation! As you said in your book, many volunteers had stayed in the orphanage before only to never return to even visit the kids that had grown so close to them.
Although your journey through the treacherous mountains of Nepal to reunite the children with their parents is enthralling, I have to admit my favorite part of your story was reading about your journey to meet the love of your life and one of my dearest friends, Liz! What has surprised you most about being married?
I always thought of marriage as kind of an eternal form of dating, which is why I was never enthusiastic about it. I just thought, eventually you’ll have a disagreement that you can’t get over, but now you’ll be stuck in that relationship, so what’s the point?
Boy, was I wrong. When I met Liz I found somebody who could be a partner, in so many deep and rich ways. We could work together, raise a family together, support each other, argue over small things, and through it all, find our way back to each other and be each other’s rock, each other’s best friend. It’s like nothing I ever expected, and I feel so blessed to have found her.
Now that you are a dad, looking back on traveling to those remote, tiny villages to find the parents of the lost children, it must give you a new perspective on what those parents were feeling when you would show them a picture of their child that they may have never seen again otherwise and the emotion that would pour out on their faces! So what has surprised you the most about being a dad?
Probably feeling a love that I never expected. Feeling like you’re having your heart melted every time you see that child. And how you can love them even when they’re terrorizing the house with their cries. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and yet nothing, not even taking care of those kids in Nepal, could have properly prepared me for it.
I must ask you a question about your own dad. I was recently reading your blog and you mentioned that your father did not have a television in his house when you were growing up. I am FASCINATED with that! I strive to keep the TV off as much as possible! How do you think this molded you as a kid and now as a man?
I am so grateful for it! It kept me reading constantly, it kept our conversations lively. It meant that nobody was ever rushing to finish something so they could watch TV, it wasn’t even an option. Books were the center of our house entertainment, and that helped me be a better writer.
Your non-profit organization Next Generation Nepal helps fund your own orphanage that you opened in Nepal to rescue kids from child trafficking. How can one help support your organization?
Thanks for asking! There are a couple of ways – the best is always financial support. Unfortunately the truth is that we rely on individuals to support our work, and we have to be up front in asking, because we are the only ambassadors the children have.
But spreading the word is also critical! We’re fortunate to have a book out about it, and we would love people to read and be educated about Nepal and it’s issues, especially how children are suffering. That kind of knowledge can change lives on the other side of the world.
Yes! Everyone should purchase the book. Part of the proceeds goes towards food, clothing, educational supplies and helping to rescuing more children. It is a tragic, important story to tell, and yet intertwined throughout, you find a way to make this book humorous and inspiring! I couldn’t put it down! Thanks so much, Conor!
To purchase Conor Grennan’s book, Little Princes-One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal, for $14.44 from Amazon, click here.
If you would like to follow Conor on all of his life’s adventures, you can follow him at www.conorgrennan.com.
Growing up as an actress (appearing in several Barbie commercials, Charles in Charge, Highway to Heaven, Kids Incorporated, etc. and later in life in a Super Bowl commercial and a Ford commercial), Kelly was known as ‘Queen of the Caboodle’ for her ready-to-head -to-LA-for-an-audition tricks of the make-up trade.
Kelly is mother to Abigail, Marcus and Eli and lives with her husband Thadd in Long Beach, California. Although she is a beauty product junkie, you will most likely find her on any given day wearing no makeup, in her favorite pair of gray sweats, and yes, sporting a ponytail.
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