Christiane Amanpour: “Harry’s done a lot of good in the world.”
J.K. Rowling: “I hope so.”
Watch this new CNN interview to learn more about what J.K. Rowling has been up to in the past few years, particularly with regard to Lumos, the non-profit she founded that’s devoted to ending children’s institutionalisation around the world.
After encountering a news story on an institution in the Czech Republic, which kept children constrained in caged beds for most of the day, Rowling was inspired to establish Lumos in 2005. Active worldwide, the charity “works in partnership with governments, professionals and carers, communities, families and children, to transform outdated systems that drive families apart.”
An estimated 8 million children live in orphanages worldwide—and 80% of them aren’t actually orphans. Lumos helps reunite children with families who in fact want them but lack the money or ability to care for them. For instance, an orphanage might be transformed into a daycare center that provides personalized care to children during the day and allows them to return to their families every night. Lumos supports local experts in their efforts to improve the care systems within their own communities.
This cause is deeply personal to Rowling, who speaks with Amanpour about her own fears: “I think my worst fear, my personal worst fear, is powerlessness and small spaces…We all have something that touches us on a very visceral level, and I think that’s mine.” The image likely evokes Harry Potter’s situation in the Philosopher’s Stone: trapped living in the closet under the stairs, Harry is forbidden from asking questions and kept as ignorant of the Wizarding World and his own parents as possible. The connection between Harry and her own psyche wasn’t deliberate, though Rowling acknowledges a probable link: “Although I didn’t think, ‘that’s like Harry in his cupboard,’ I suppose, why did I put Harry in the cupboard? Because this is my fear, being trapped and being powerless, just powerless to get out of that space.” Her charity work aims to ensure that no more children are trapped in substandard living conditions with insufficient care and socialisation.
Rowling advises her fans to volunteer, donate, and travel responsibly: “Be very, very careful how you give” to avoid accidentally supporting harmful systems. For instance, ample research has demonstrated the damage done by “orphanage tourism.” Rowling urges “my people, the people who grew up with Harry Potter” to “volunteer in the right way.” There’s plenty of information available online to help you travel responsibly, while organizations like Charity Navigator can help you decide where to donate.
On a lighter note, Rowling also discussed her 50th birthday party, her work on the Fantastic Beasts films, and her love of writing. Her birthday party theme was “come as your own private nightmare,” so Rowling herself showed up as a “lost manuscript,” wearing a dress on which she’d written the words to a book she’d written. Will this new story ever see the light of day? Well, currently it’s hanging in Rowling’s closet, and she’s uncertain if it will be published. Demand for still more of Rowling’s writing is undeniably strong, and after this interview, fans are sure to be clamoring for it!
Rowling remains hard at work on the Fantastic Beasts films. Currently, she’s writing the screenplay for the second film installment, set to premiere November 2018. Rowling has laid claim to the screenwriter position, insisting, “No one else can write that; I’m writing it.” No matter how busy her schedule gets, she finds the time to continue expanding the magical world. Thanks to Rowling’s devotion to her craft, Potterheads can look forward to plenty of future work by the beloved author. In her own words, “I love writing…I write because I just love writing, it gets me up every day. I would be writing no matter what.”
Header image via Daniel Ogren on Flickr