Why I Wrote “Little Princes”

When I was first approached about the idea of making the story of my time in Nepal into a book, I turned it down. I was up to my eyeballs in my first year of business school at NYU Stern, with a heavy course load and the challenges of serving as president of my class. My wife Liz was expecting our first child. I was trying desperately to keep Next Generation Nepal (NGN) afloat, running the organization almost singlehandedly while Liz supported us by working long hours at a New York law firm. The thought of simultaneously trying to write a book seemed ludicrous.

After long discussions with Liz, I decided that if I could find the time to write the book, if even a few people read it, it would be a wonderful way to share the story of Nepal, and specifically of the kids, with as many people as possible. We might even bring in some donations. Fundraising for NGN is a difficult and never-ending task, and life was only going to get busier when our son was born.

The book turned out to be a joy to write. It was as if I was back in Nepal, back with the children, reliving my days with them. I loved those days so much. I had taken hundreds of pages of notes in the time I was there, taken literally thousands of photos, and written dozens and dozens of blog entries about it for friends and family back home. Each of the children I knew there remains permanently etched in my mind; I can conjure any of their voices and movements and little traits that identify them—especially the 18 children of the Little Princes Children’s Home, with whom I lived for eight months. They were the ones that changed my heart about Nepal and inspired me to first try to find the families of all those lost children. I named the book “Little Princes” in their honor—it couldn’t be any other way. It’s their story.

But in writing it, I realized it was more than just their story. It was the story of how somebody like me, somebody with no relevant skills whatsoever, no deep passion for volunteering, no profound desire to make an impact on anyone’s life but his own, found himself sacrificing his comfortable way of life to try to improve the lives of these young children on the other side of the world.

That became perhaps the most important element in the story for me. I am desperate for readers, especially younger readers, to see what getting involved can do. How it can change your life so completely, and in ways you could never imagine. How volunteering, whether it is in an impoverished third world nation or in your hometown, requires only that you show up. Don’t worry how little of your time or resources you may have to offer—just offer it, and see what happens.

The fact is, volunteering is no longer a fringe activity—the world gets smaller every day and we have a responsibility to understand what it looks like. It’s not how the other half lives, it’s how the other 90 percent live. And I believe that each of us has a responsibility to know what those lives look like, even if we only give one single day of our life to discovering it. Because it could have been us.

“Little Princes” is, I hope, quite humorous and not such a difficult read, because those are the kinds of books I like to read. I like to have fun with stories and I try to make the reader laugh while I show him or her the truth.

But it’s also humorous because that’s what life is like when you’re living with children, whether they are your own children or they are children growing up on the other side of the world, abandoned survivors of a civil war. There is always hope. And sometimes those kids, right in the thick of it, are the only ones who can see it. It was a joy to be there, beside them, telling their story to the world.

Copyright ©2012 Conor Grennan. Photos: Larry Closs.
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