International child rights advocate Conor Grennan spoke to a crowd of UNH students in the Strafford Room of the Memoriam Union Building (MUB) on the night of Wednesday, Nov. 16, as part of the MUB’s Current Issues Lecture Series. As the founder of Next Generation Nepal, which is an organization that helps victims of child trafficking reunite with their families, Grennan kept his audience captivated as he told the story of how the organization came to be.
“He’s a great speaker,” MUB staff member Abby Martinen said. “He was able to make his topic interesting and keep the audience engaged.”
Grennan’s relatability and humor was well received by the students in attendance, and it made his storytelling feel very real and personal. He admitted that he got the idea of volunteering at an orphanage in Nepal while trying to impress a girl he was interested in.
“I didn’t really want to volunteer at first,” Grennan said. “But I started to enjoy it.”
His journey started with a three-month stay at a remote Nepalese orphanage in 2005. He made such a strong connection with the kids there that he made a promise to come back.
Grennan did go back a year later, in April 2006, but at that time the civil war that had plagued the country had gotten worse. The Maoist rebels were gaining support in their mission to spread communism in Nepal, and they needed soldiers.
It wasn’t long before the rebels began recruiting children.
This created a situation where child trafficking became a profitable business. Desperate to save their kids from fighting in the war, parents would give up their children to traffickers disguised as someone running an orphanage. These traffickers would often sell the children to factories and into slavery.
When Grennan realized that this was happening, and that members of the orphanage he volunteered at were actually victims of child trafficking, he immediately began helping the misplaced children find their families across Nepal. He did this on a small scale at first, but was inspired to create Next Generation Nepal after he saw that other organizations, like the United Nations, were doing nothing to stop the crisis.
“Next Generation Nepal was born because there was no other choice. I had to do it,” Grennan said.
His foundation, created in 2007, has now reunited over 500 victims of child trafficking with their families.
Grennan’s speech brought to light an issue that many UNH students most likely weren’t aware of, and also allowed the audience to develop a sense of empathy for the victims.
“His talk was interesting,” UNH student Caitlin Riordan said. “I never realized how big of a problem this was before.”
Grennan made his audience aware that child trafficking is an issue that affects thousands of children in Nepal. The other thing he did was prove that anyone can make a difference.