LUMOS – J.K. Rowling lights a candle in the dark

J.K. Rowling, popular author of the Harry Potter series was deeply impacted after reading an article in 2004 describing children in institutions being in caged beds.  She knew she had to act and became founder and president of Lumos who “works to help the millions of children in institutions regain the right to a family” (See website here)

Their new short film, “Behind the Walls”, offers a compelling look into this disturbing issue affecting over 8 million children institutionalized: watch Behind The Walls

Read some of the following film’s script as a former resident reveals the horrors within:

“They tied this one girl up for 15 years, to protect her from herself, they said.  Because she hit herself.  And fed her with a bottle, until she knew no other. But maybe, I thought, she hit herself because they tied her up.”

“The babies come and they cry, for a few days…and then, they learn…that this is a silent place, with no complaints.”

“He was a longed for, first-born son.  They were told he wouldn’t live long, would never talk.  You could tell from their faces, they didn’t want to give him up.  He has a defect, they were told, How could you ever cope?  So they gave my young friend, Peter, up.  He remembers their faces, voices, or at least that’s what he says.  Peter gets a few letters, one of the lucky children here.  Letters full of love, and regret which speak of his family’s problems, of their poverty and desperation.  Few of us are really orphans.”

“The staff were as strapped as we were.  They didn’t know how to help, they were just too busy.”

Lumos highlights some facts about children with disabilities:

  • Children with disabilities are 6 times more likely than their peers to be placed in institutional care

Outcomes for children with disabilities in institutions are much graver than their peers:

  • those under 3 are 100 times more likely to die in institutions, with the remaining being institutionalized for life
  • research in one institution found that of all children institutionalized while young, none were returned to family; 22% moved on to an adult institution, 78% died in the institution

With the passion of J.K. Rowling leading the way, Lumos continues to take solid steps forward towards solutions*:

  • advocating internationally to divert funding directed to institutions instead to supporting families and creating inclusive programs within communities
  • supporting national governments in creating legislation, changing attitude and increasing funding towards protecting the rights of children and moving them from institutional to community based care
  • assisting and strengthening health, education and social services at a local level to discourage the need for institutionalization
  • working alongside NGO’s locally to advocate and bring awareness for children’s rights
  • working within institutions to ensure children’s rights, health, development and protection
  • supporting families directly to find support, education, and resources so they can keep their children with disabilities at home
  • working with children in institutions directly, teaching them to be self advocates, providing resources and planning to enable their departure from the institution

When J.K. Rowling read that article back in 2004, she said:

“I looked at that photograph of the boy in his cage bed and felt he has absolutely no voice. This touched me as nothing else has because I can think of nobody more powerless than a child, perhaps with a mental or a physical disability, locked away from their family. It was a very shocking realization to me and that’s where the whole thing started”.

She saw, she allowed herself to feel, she became a voice for the voiceless and lit a candle in the dark.


*Lumos “Seven levels of engagement”

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