J.K. Rowling Lights Up the Empire State Building to Launch Her Children’s Non-Profit Organization, Lumos USA


The author was in New York to raise funds to help the eight million children in institutions and orphanages around the world, of whom over 80 per cent have living parents


J.K. Rowling today (April 9) lit up the iconic Empire State Building in New York to mark the launch of Lumos USA as part of the NGO’s global mission to bring light to the lives of eight million children living in orphanages and institutions around the world.

The world famous author came to America this week with the messages at the heart of Lumos’ work – that 80% of children in orphanages are not orphans but have been separated from their families due to poverty, disability, conflict and disasters; and that families are the best place for them to grow up. And in a bid to help shed light on this issue, has written a personal and thought-provoking article on the subject, which is available at www.jkrowling.com

Named after the light-giving spell in the Harry Potter books, Lumos is an international non-profit organization that helps countries reform their services for disadvantaged children, moving from systems based on residential institutions and orphanages that separate children from families to services which support them to stay together in the community.

Lumos’ mission draws on decades of scientific evidence, including recently published work by Harvard University, showing that institutions have a negative impact on children’s physical, emotional and intellectual development by depriving them of the close, individual care and attention parents provide within a family.

In launching Lumos USA, Patron J.K. Rowling said:

“Children need families, and families need their children and I believe it is entirely possible, with concerted effort, to help to transform the way the world cares for disadvantaged children. We owe this to the eight million children living in orphanages around the world, most of whom do have parents and families who, given the right level of support, could care for them at home.”

After a decade working with governments in Central and Eastern Europe to help them to close down State-run institutions for children and create new services that support vulnerable children stay with families, Lumos is now also working to address the use of largely privately-funded orphanages, which is increasing in many parts of the world. Lumos has recently begun to work in the Latin America and Caribbean region, focusing on Haiti, where more than 30,000 children live in orphanages, but at least 80% of them NOT orphans.

Encouraging reform of the funding that supports orphanages is a key part of Lumos’ work. It has played an important role in influencing the way that European Union aid is now spent - to support community services for children and families, not to build or renovate institutions and orphanages. Lumos USA will build on this advocacy activity by working with US Government departments – including the US Agency for International Development – and bodies such as the World Bank to promote a similar funding principle. The right of children to live in families is one of the core principles of the US Government’s Action Plan on Children in Adversity.

Georgette Mulheir, the Chief Executive of Lumos – who last year was named by a prestigious US academic website as one of the world’s 30 most influential social workers – said:

“The USA, its citizens and, indeed, the international community have a huge role to play to influence the agenda on children outside of family care. Foreign policy, development aid and individual giving can help shape the future for vulnerable children and their families in a sustainable way, ensuring that no child is denied the right to family life.”

The United Nations is currently creating a set of post-2015 ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) – a set of aspirations and principles, which will influence how billions of dollars in aid are used around the world. Early drafts have stressed the importance of child health, development, education, and protection, but does not recognize that a family is the only effective way of providing those vital elements.

In order to support Lumos’ campaign to draw attention to the omission of families within the SDGs, J.K. Rowling wrote privately in March to leading figures in the United Nations, urging them to recognize the vital role of families and include targets for a significant reduction of numbers of children outside family care in the SDGs.

To celebrate the launch of Lumos Foundation USA, Lumos is raising funds to reunite children with families. For the next month, Lumos USA will run an online sweepstakes giving every eligible US resident who donates over $10, the opportunity to win one of four generously donated prizes: two signed copies of J.K. Rowling’s ‘Very Good Lives’ ; a VIP trip for four to Universal Orlando Resort to experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter; and tickets to Comic Con in San Diego in July 2015.

One hundred percent of all donations to Lumos go directly towards their projects on the ground.




(Right-click on the images to download hi-res versions.)

Notes to editors

J.K. Rowling is not available for interview

For interviews with Georgette Mulheir, CEO of Lumos, please contact Vicky.gillings@wearelumos.org or +447881816599

The article written by J.K. Rowling is available form her website www.jkrowling.com and is copyright free and available to reproduce around the world.

For B-roll footage for broadcasters visit https://vimeo.com/123315497 using password ‘Lumosbroll’

To find out more about Lumos visit www.wearelumos.org
Follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lumos
Join us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/lumos.at.work

General media contact details

Contact: Kris Moran, Kmoran@scholastic.com, 917 216-2639 / Vicky Gillings, Head of Communications, Lumos - +44 (0) 7881 816599 vicky.gillings@wearelumos.org ; John Steele, PR Manager, Lumos - +44 (0) 7768 660953 john.steele@wearelumos.org

Lumos USA Sweepstakes - to raise funds for reuniting children with families

Between now and May 10th Lumos USA is giving all donors of $10 or more the chance to win some fantastic prizes, all kindly donated in support of Lumos’ work to reunite families. Prizes include:

  • Two signed copies of the Very Good Lives book – the new release from Patron of Lumos USA J.K. Rowling, signed by the author herself. This brand new print version of her 2008 Harvard commencement speech deals with the issues of failure, and why imagination is so important, and contains anecdotes from the author’s own years as an undergraduate.
  • A trip for four to Universal Orlando Resort to experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, including the newly opened Hogwarts Express and Diagon Alley, plus Hogsmeade. This trip of a lifetime includes 4 days’ park to park admission at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, an exclusive VIP tour of both parks plus early bird admission, for the complete VIP experience. This includes Business class flights if available for (4) people to Orlando from anywhere in the Continental U.S.
  • Two tickets and 3 nights accommodation to Comic-Con International in San Diego on 9-12 July 2015 where you can meet-and-greet with some of the top name artists, writers and visionaries who bring DC Entertainment comic books to life.

For full terms and conditions visit www.wearelumos.org/get-invovled/lumos-usa-sweepstakes

About Lumos

Lumos is an international non-profit organization, founded by the author J.K. Rowling, which works to end the institutionalization of children around the world and helps to support the 8 million children in institutions worldwide regain their right to a family life. Despite living in so-called ‘orphanages’ the majority of children who live there are not orphans but placed there as a result of grinding poverty, disability and discrimination. Lumos works with countries to transform education, health and social care systems so children can be moved from institutions and supported in the families and the community.

In six years, Lumos has

  • Supported 14,280 children to move from harmful institutions to families or supported independent living;
  • Prevented 11,000 babies and infants from serious harm or admission to institutions;
  • Saved the lives of 935 children suffering from malnutrition, severe neglect or a lack of access to medical treatment;
  • Trained 23,000 social workers, medical professionals, teachers, carers, civil servants, and policy makers;
  • Helped redirect US$500 million that was planned to be spent on orphanages and institutions and ensured that it was spent on community-based services instead.

The Lumos model of ‘deinstitutionalization’ combines advocacy at international level, support for national governments and demonstration work on the ground to show that reform can be achieved.

Lumos has recently started working with the government and other agencies and NGOs in Haiti, where at least 30,000 children live in orphanages, 80% of them with living parents. Lumos will focus on two orphanages – helping to save the lives and stabilise the health of very vulnerable children and then preparing them to return to family life.

Information about children in institutions

The UN estimates that around the world there are approximately 8 million children living in care institutions.[1]

Institutionalization causes harmful effects to the child, including impaired early brain development, leading to delayed cognitive and physical development, in some cases, resulting in the onset of an intellectual disability. Children with a moderate to severe intellectual disability have even fewer prospects for escaping the vicious cycle of institutionalization. Analysis of admissions to and discharges from children’s institutions in a number of countries demonstrates that the majority of these children, once they reach adulthood, are transferred to an institution for adults.[3]

Scientific and other research – including authoritative work at Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child - shows that consistent loving adult engagement with a young child helps strengthen neural electrical connections in the brain, shaping its development. A key failing of orphanages is that low ratios of adults to children cannot ensure the sustained adult attention children need to grow and prosper.

Research has also shown that reuniting children with families makes sound economic sense. In most cases, it is far cheaper to support a family in the community than to keep a child in an orphanage. The institutionalization of children also places long-term economic burdens on societies. Institutionalized children suffer more ill health than the wider population and, as adults, are more likely than those raised in families, to drop out of school, face unemployment, or worse, have a criminal record, become involved in prostitution or commit suicide.

For more information on the scale of institutionalization and the harm it causes, read Lumos factsheets by following the links above.

J.K. Rowling biography

J.K. Rowling is the author of the bestselling Harry Potter series of seven books, published between 1997 and 2007, which have sold over 450 million copies worldwide, are distributed in more than 200 territories, are translated into 78 languages, and have been turned into eight blockbuster films.

She has written three companion volumes in aid of charity: Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in aid of Comic Relief; and The Tales of Beedle the Bard in aid of her children’s charity Lumos. Published in 2008 it was the fastest selling book that year and has raised millions for the charity.

In 2012, J.K. Rowling’s digital company Pottermore was launched, where fans can enjoy her new writing and immerse themselves deeper in the wizarding world.

Her first novel for adult readers, The Casual Vacancy, was published in September 2012 and her first two crime novels, written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, were published in 2013 (The Cuckoo’s Calling) and 2014 (The Silkworm) respectively.

On April 14th 2015, J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard commencement speech will be published as an illustrated book, Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination, in aid of Lumos and university –wide financial aid at Harvard.

As well as receiving an OBE for services to children's literature, she has received many awards and honours, including France’s Legion d’Honneur and the Hans Christian Andersen Award.

J.K. Rowling supports a number of causes through her charitable trust, Volant. She is also the founder and president of the international children's non-profit organization Lumos, which works to end the institutionalization of children globally and ensure all children grow up in a safe and caring environment.

Biography of Georgette Mulheir, Chief Executive Officer, Lumos

For more than two decades, Georgette has worked in 23 countries around the world, leading large-scale programs to transform (and at times save) the lives of thousands of disadvantaged children. She pioneered a model of ‘deinstitutionalization’ (DI) now followed by many governments, preventing the separation of children from families, returning children from so-called ‘orphanages’ to families, and shifting finances from harmful institutions to community services that support children in families. She advises officials at the European Commission on using EU funds for reforming children’s services, and has published four books on children’s rights. Georgette sits on the Leaders' Council of the Global Alliance for Children the UK-based Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement. In 2014, she was named as ‘one of the world’s 30 most influential social workers’ by socialworkdegreeguide.com. She has also been honored in the 6th Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards for her work and the awards will be held on Friday, April 24 2015.