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J.K. Rowling and Bonnie Wright challenge us to ‘spread the word’ about Lumos

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Bonnie Wright and J.K. Rowling pose at the Lumos Gala

Lumos ambassador and Harry Potter actress Bonnie Wright has a message for Pottermore readers: spread the word about Lumos.

Last night was an emotional one at Carnegie Hall. J.K. Rowling took to the stage with Fantastic Beasts leading man Eddie Redmayne, her voice hoarse from days of interviews. ‘I am full of honey,’ she said.

The reason the author was so determined to keep on talking was that she wanted everyone in that packed auditorium to ‘spread the word’ about the work Lumos is doing to help children across the world get back to their families and out of orphanages.

As you may know, J.K. Rowling founded Lumos in 2005 after being appalled by an image of an institutionalised child in a cage.

Looking down at her notes, expressly to get these truly shocking facts and figures absolutely right, the author said that an estimated eight million children across the world live in orphanages – but even that could be a conservative estimate. 80% of those children have a parent or relative.

J.K. Rowling spoke about the humanitarian crisis in Haiti, and the impact of Hurricane Matthew on the lives of children.

Harry Potter actress Bonnie Wright visited Haiti earlier this year with her co-star Evanna Lynch and Lumos CEO Georgette Mulheir. Here’s a little of what she saw:

Everyone at Carnegie Hall had donated to Lumos by buying a ticket to the event, which culminated in a gala screening of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. After the film, I caught up with Bonnie to talk about her experiences.

‘Evanna and I went to Haiti with the amazing Georgette [Mulheir, Lumos CEO],’ Bonnie told me. ‘The stories George can tell. Part of that trip was for us to learn about the situation first-hand from the team out there.’

‘We went into one orphanage… and it was just shocking. A film crew walked in and the children didn’t even turn their heads, because there’s no stimulus for them. I sat with one boy who was lying down, and his legs were completely limp. With a bit of physiotherapy he would move, but he has nothing to stand up for.

'There was no manager, just one carer looking after all these children. I knew a little bit about what Lumos was doing and why Jo had been pulled into this issue. But it’s so deeply complex, I hadn’t quite grasped it.’

Both J.K. Rowling and Bonnie touched on how some parents in desperate situations were told that their child would enjoy a better life in an institution.

‘I met a mother whose son was about fourteen, and she was so proud of him,’ said Bonnie. ‘She had been manipulated into thinking that her son would go into this institution and get an education, food, and opportunities to travel. He wasn’t getting anything like that in the community she was living in, so she thought, “Of course!”

‘That’s not any fault of hers. It took such vulnerability but she told us that she felt so ashamed as a mother that this had happened and it was nothing to do with her. They were getting such incredible support – the social workers with the Lumos team are such incredible people. You could tell that this was something the mother felt deeply but was beginning to overcome.’

Bonnie stressed to me the importance of education and had a message for those who want to help Lumos.

‘We have certain ideas about orphans and orphanages that are maybe not right. It’s wonderful that people try to do good, but doing that extra research means your money doesn’t go to corrupt institutions.’

‘Today I would like to inspire you to take a friend and talk to them about what Lumos is and educate them on what you’ve learned about…why Jo has taken this on as an incredible task. And why we need to re-educate ourselves on child institutions, and terms like orphan or orphanage. That would be an incredible thing that you could do for these children.’

In the last 11 years, Lumos has helped get more than 17,000 children out of harmful institutions, trained 27,000 social workers, medical professionals and caregivers and prevented more than 14,000 children from entering orphanages.

The charity aims to end the institutionalisation of children by 2050.

If you’d like to know more about Lumos, please watch this message from J.K. Rowling:

Make a donation to Lumos