Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Conor Grennan and Next Generation Nepal

In one of my detailed items under "What To Do About Corruption," I talked about how each of us needs to find a way to apply our own unique talents and interests to making a difference in the lives of vulnerable children and their families.

This entry is about one man who has been doing just that. Conor Grennan, not sure what to do with his life and wanting to do something cool, decided to travel--travel around the world. Apparently he didn't make it--around the world that is. But he is doing something cool and important. He got stuck in Nepal working with children in an orphanage. Then that work kinda evolved into something else. A mission to learn the truth about where these trafficked children--who eventually landed up in an orphanage--came from and how they came to be separated from their parents. He wanted the whole story.

And so, Conor's current work.

Backed by a small NGO he created called Next Generation Nepal, Conor has walked mountainous backroads into remote villages looking for the families of 24 children who were allegedly trafficked.

Carrying his own food, accompanied by a small party of translators and guides, and armed with photos of the children whose first parents he is seeking, Conor is having quite an adventure. And he is writing about his adventures, but more importantly, his work--the truth he finds--in his incredible blog.

Here is an exerpt from Conor's blog. Click on the link below the quote to go to Conor's actual blog.

The purpose of going was to trek through the mountains with photos of the children and any information we had – usually limited to a village name and the name of a father – and try to find the families of children taken by traffickers years ago. It would be the first step in a long process of reuniting children with their parents.

(By the way - this is a long entry, in case you’ve got stuff you need to be doing.)

The three-week search was both extremely difficult and extremely successful. Believe it or not, of the 24 children we knew who had parents somewhere in the mountains of Humla, we found 24 families. Crazy. It was substantially higher than my original estimate of finding zero families. I just didn’t know how we would be able to do it. My four-man team and the four-man team of my colleague, DB, who had profiles of many more children for a separate organization with the same mission, ended up traveling a large team. Together we were eight: seven men from Humla plus me...

Twenty four families. That means twenty four times, I sat with Rinjin, my translator, on a rough carpet outside a simple mud home in some small mountain village and handed a mother or a father a photo of their child who they haven’t seen in years. Then I simply watched their faces. It was instant recognition. If it was a mother, she would touch the photograph to her forehead, treating it as a sacred thing, then just stare at her son or daughter in the photo. I waited long minutes before intruding on these moments, the hypnotized smiles or the flood of tears or chattering with the crowd of villagers gathered around for what they sensed was a historic event, and then very carefully ask them if they knew where their child was. Very few had any idea.

Those moments were nothing short of astonishing. For me, it would begin even a few minutes earlier, when I would see the parents walking towards me through the village. They knew I was here – everybody in the village knew I was there, they gathered on low rooftops to watch our team approaching – but there was uncertainly as to what this white guy was doing in a place like this.

He was amazing, Min Bahadur – tall and lanky for a Nepali, always cheerful, exceedingly strong, and sure enough, he knew everybody we passed on the trail. So it was never a surprise to see him walking towards me with a mother and father following him, with a proud smile on his face. He would say something to Rinjin (my equally excellent translator), and Rinjin would turn to me and say “This is the father and mother of Chandra.” But I would know it already – the resemblance was uncanny, it was always uncanny. This was Chandra’s father and mother, Chandra grew up here, he was a baby at one point then learned to walk and to talk with these two people, in this village, around these animals and these fields and on the floors of these mud houses. Then they lost him. To see his real parents with my own eyes, the two people who were meant to be caring for him the way that we had been trying to do for two or three years, was quite honestly like a miracle.

We all had a lot of questions for each other, but I asked mine first. I asked the whole story of what happened with their child as far as they knew, what they had heard, when was the last time they had news about him or her. I asked what the traffickers had promised (it was always the same – to put the child in a boarding school in Kathmandu) and how much money they had charged the parents for this service. That was heartbreaking, hearing how much they had paid these bastards, how much they’d had to borrow, what they had to sell, seeing how incredibly poor they were. Typically, they may have heard from the trafficker soon after giving up their child before being cut off completely. The trafficker would always tell them that their child was in boarding school and was doing great, at the very same moment that I was finding this same child somewhere on the street half starved to death. It’s sick.

I asked about their families, their brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles. I asked about their economic conditions, how much land they had, how many animals, everything to get a sense of their financial security, how poor they were. The easy answer was “very poor” but there is more to it than that – all of Nepal is very poor, after all. We want to get a sense of how to allow children to safely come back to their families.

Connar's incredible blog:
How Connar is Spending All His Money: A BootsnAll Travel Blog

Now these particular children had not (yet) been adopted out, but their stories are important for understanding how children--some of whom are trafficked for adoption and some of whom are adopted out after being trafficked and landing in an orphanage come to be separated from parents and to be presented as "orphans"--kids who are or seem to be without parents who care for them. Starting to understand the vulnerabilities of these families and their children is the beginning step to understanding how adoption corruption works in impoverished countries.

Please also check out Conor's organization: Next Generation Nepal. Incidentally, his organization operates entirely on donations. And those donations are what allows Conor to do his work in Nepal.

Hats off to fellow fleas, Conor and Next Generation Nepal.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Desiree. I couldn't get the link to work to his blog.