Earlier this week, J.K. Rowling published a powerful article in The Guardian regarding her charity, Lumos. Headlined, “Isn’t it time we left orphanages to fairytales?” Rowling begins her column by recounting the heart-wrenching image of an institutionalized boy she saw in a newspaper ten years ago. Locked in a caged bed, the boy’s hands clutching at the wire surrounding him, the picture devastated her so much that she immediately began seeking a solution.
Founded in 2005, Lumos strives to shut down child institutions and “orphanages,” and help displaced children return to loving homes.
Through her research, Rowling learned that more than 8 million children worldwide are institutionalized, and the shocking fact that, in many cases, the children in these institutions have parents and family members who are still living. The main reason that children fall into these places is because their parents are unable or unwilling to take care of them. Growing up in these kinds of deplorable conditions has been proven to have a drastic, negative affect on the quality of life, education, and overall humanity of these children. Malnutrition, failure to thrive, abuse, trafficking, and even death are all common outcomes of child institutions. Rowling knew that she had to do something to put an end to the suffering of these children.
Named after the Harry Potter spell that produces light in dark places, Lumos has moved swiftly through Europe to bring hope to these children. Efforts in Moldova (Europe’s poorest nation), the Czech Republic, and Bulgaria have seen extraordinarily significant decreases in new admissions to institutions, as well as a vast increase of caregivers and foster care, providing much-needed loving family environments. If this kind of success keeps growing, the institutionalization of children can be globally eradicated by the year 2050.
In order to end child institutionalization for good, Lumos needs us all to keep the issue alive and create awareness in our own parts of the world. Last month, the charity and J.K. Rowling launched #letstalklumos—a social media campaign that was created for the very purpose of keeping the issue fresh in the world’s mind. Just because we may not see what goes on in some corners of the world does not mean that it can be pushed under the rug, into the dark. Rowling ends with these simple, yet impactful words: “I recently committed to becoming president of Lumos for life. It is my dream that, within my lifetime, the very concept of taking a child away from its family and locking it away will seem to belong to a cruel, fictional world.”