True Love

In honor of Valentine’s Day, this entry is about true love. Last week, I read a newspaper article that stopped me dead in my tracks. Conor Grennan had spent some time working in an orphanage in Nepal, a country devastated by civil war. He learned that many children have living parents but are kidnapped, abandoned and/or trafficked into the international adoption market. Their so-called caretakers fabricate documents to make them “paper orphans” that are eligible for adoption. No doubt their parents have paid these kidnappers a lot of money to because they had promised to keep their children “safe,” and I’m sure other people up the line get paid hefty sums to release them for adoption. Grennan now works to rescue and reunite kidnapped children with their families through his organization, Next Generation Nepal. I think the name of the organization is appropriate given its reasoning for trying to keep Nepalese children with their families and in the country:

NGN Reunification Team returns trafficked children from Kathmandu to their families and rural communities.

  • Children have the right to be raised in their own family whenever possible.
  • Culture, traditions and native languages are lost when children are cut off from their families and communities.
  • Stabilizing economic forces in a child’s life, such as inheritance of familial land and eventual marriage, can only occur when children are living in their own communities.
  • Nepal society is over 90% agrarian; the future of the country depends on village development. The next generation of Nepali’s must be raised in their communities to learn agricultural and other village-centric skills

The NGN website says they offer “temporary care,” clearly implying that they don’t intend to keep the kids. Now, this could mean that they intend to send them for adoption abroad, but no:

The rescued children live in the safety of our transitional homes while the process of family reconnection begins.

Now this just kills me: “while the process of family reconnection begins.” Our society has defaulted into thinking that if there is a national crisis somewhere (in the global south or global east, because surely the parents there aren’t capable of parenting their children through a crisis), the children should be removed to safety. Consider Haiti 2010. For some reason, people in the global north and west think that taking children from the global south and east is the solution. As if race doesn’t matter. As if national belonging doesn’t matter. As if staying with birth relatives isn’t an option. But removal is not always the solution. How will the country heal and rebuild without its children? Korea is a case in point; with one of the lowest birth rates in the world, how will Korea repopulate itself?

Grennan sets a great example for those of us concerned about the world’s children. To be blunt, I think it’s shortsighted to think that international adoption is the solution because it’s not even answering the right question. So many times I’ve heard, “But isn’t it better for children to be adopted to the US than to stay in orphanages in Korea/China/Guatemala/Vietnam/Russia?” Grennan’s work is an excellent response to that question: They’re not orphans. They have parents. Support families, don’t break them apart.

Grennan sees the bigger picture. He has a heart for Nepal. I think this is true love; when you try to preserve families, not take fragments of existing families to recreate new ones.

You can read more about his vision in this book, Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal.

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends. Live love.

P.S. He also found true love through his work. Read about it here.