J.K. Rowling Recounts Why She Started Lumos


In a new interview, J.K. Rowling reveals what drove her to begin her charity Lumos.

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Over the weekend, J.K. Rowling talked the the Sunday Times about her charity project Lumos, and what drove her to launch it back in 2005. For those who aren’t aware, the ten year old foundation is one dedicated to helping children around the world. It started with a picture of a child in a cage.

The child in question was one Vasek Knotek, who was living in a Czech orphanage. He was “About five” (no one was exactly sure), but what arrested her was the cage the child was sitting in. Like an animal, the child was growing up, with only minimal human contact when his cage was cleaned. No one was teaching him how to be a person. No one was showing him any sort of love. And more importantly, he wasn’t alone. The orphanage was filled with children being treated this way. Rowling couldn’t get over it.

“The image of that boy’s face marked me. I couldn’t get it, or the story, out of my mind. He was a very young disabled child, who was being kept in a cage bed around the clock. The journalist described an environment you hoped had vanished with the Victorian asylums. I couldn’t think of a more vulnerable, powerless person than that little boy.”

Rowling took action, photocopying the article and sending it to anyone she could think of from Scottish MPs to the Prime Minister, to ambassadors and wealthy connections. It was madness for her to be doing that now–as fans will remember, 2004/2005 was when she was writing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, working hard to stay ahead of the movie franchise which was speedily coming up behind her. Moreover she was pregnant with her third child–her other two children were a toddler and a ten year old. She didn’t have time to be starting a charity. and yet, here she was.

And for good reason too. One of the agents for Lumos, Cath Irvine, a speech and language therapist from Somerset, talks about the experience when the charity first began investigating

“It didn’t smell, because they were expecting us. I walked into Block Two,’ she says. ‘There were 43 children in there — well, I say children, the oldest was in her thirties — and the place was just silent. Some had grown too big for their cots and had to lie with their legs permanently bent. All of them, even the adults, were bottle-fed. I went around, saying, “Hello.” A member of staff followed me, saying, “This child has beans for brains, this one does nothing but lie there all day …” but you could spot the children who had a spark because they just lit up.”

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In the decade that followed, Rowling’s Lumos has made a huge difference in the lives of children around the world. You can donate to the cause here.