Much of the passion for the Harry Potter novels comes from the readers being able to relate to its characters and their actions, despite the fantastical context. It seems only logical, therefore, that the themes of love and justice, so pivotal to the series, should inspire readers to go that extra mile. Just as Harry and his friends seek to make their world a better place, with the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore’s Army, and SPEW, so too have hundreds of thousands of Potterheads around the world sought to improve our Muggle world.
Below we have summarized the main charitable efforts by both J.K. Rowling and her fans, along with details on how you can get involved.
- Helena Bonham Carter visits students bound for Africa - Helena Bonham Carter made an appearance to wish a group of students and teachers a safe trip to Africa. Find out more about her charitable work here.
- “Harry Potter” in running for book bench in London’s Books About Town project - "The Guardian" is hosting a poll on which London-based novel you'd like to see immortalized in a book bench, and "Harry Potter" is in the running!
- Shining A Light on Lumos
- Supporting Lumos
- ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard’
- ‘Lumos Maxima’ Charm Bracelet
In August 2013, we caught up with Lumos’s Head of Communications, Vicky Gillings to discuss the charity and its activities.
Hi, Vicky. Thanks for speaking with us. Let’s start about the beginning – tell us a little more about Lumos. When was it founded? What is J.K. Rowling’s involvement with the charity?
Lumos is a charity that was set up by J.K. Rowling in 2007 and came into being after she was alerted to the plight of the millions of children living in institutions around the world through a Sunday Times article. The article showed a picture of a young boy with physical and behavioral disabilities who was being kept in a caged bed as a way to “contain” his behavior in a so-called “orphanage” in the Czech Republic. She was so moved by this that she began researching into this problem and wanted to do something to help those children who had been separated from their families, isolated from the community, and abandoned by a care system that was supposed to help them. This article shed light on the continuing practice around the world, but particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, of placing children in institutions, not because they were all orphans – indeed the majority of children in orphanages are not orphans – but because their families were too poor to look after them, especially if they had a disability, and in some cases, if they were from an ethnic minority. Lumos works to end the systematic institutionalization of children, and it does this by working with national governments and the local authorities to close institutions, build up community-based services that help keep children with their families, and help children become reunited with their families. Lumos trains staff from the old institutions to work in the new services, and supports the creation of foster care and adoption services and an education system that is inclusive for those with disabilities. We also work on an individual basis with the children, making assessments and recommendations for their needs. J.K. Rowling is the Founder of Lumos and the Chair of the Board, so she is closely involved with the work of the charity.
The Lumos video seemed to go down well! How did you find your first experience of LeakyCon?
I’m glad you say that about the film. Describing the situation for those eight million children living in institutions around the world is quite difficult – it’s so hard to imagine their lives and the harmful effects of being without a family. There is a wealth of evidence that shows that the children living in “orphanages,” where they are denied a family life and the individual care, love, and attention, do not thrive. Indeed, the effects of being in an institution can damage children physically, psychologically, and emotionally. Further research has shown that children growing up in orphanages have very poor life chances and are much more likely to end up trafficked, in prostitution, with a criminal record, and many more times likely to take their own lives. In light of this, we wanted a film that would convey the seriousness of the problem for those children but also explain that the solution (deinstitutionalization), while complex, is one that Lumos can deliver. I think it’s really important that we see the problem through a child’s perspective and how it must feel for them, and in this short film we see it through the eyes of “Maria.” I think that J.K. Rowling’s narration is so powerful and really engaging; it makes you want to listen. In terms of LeakyCon overall, I really enjoyed it! I have presented at many corporate types of conferences in the past, but nothing could quite prepare me for LeakyCon. It felt more like a gig rather than a conference, and everyone there was so enthusiastic and energized. You could almost reach out and touch the energy in the room. It was a great experience.
J.K. Rowling recently tweeted about one of your petitions. How has the response been to this so far?
The response has been fantastic so far. Over 6,700 people have now signed the petition, which was set up to change the way that European Union money – public money – was being spent in propping up the outdated systems that resulted in children going into institutions. The petition was calling for the use of funds to be directed toward developing community-based services that help keep families together, support services such as community centers, and specialist help for children with disabilities and complex needs. We fully expect to see some new regulations being passed in the European Commission soon, which will make a huge difference at an international level in terms of reducing the number of children in institutions in Europe – watch this space!
Funds raised from the sales of The Tales of Beedle the Bard are said to go toward Lumos. How is this money used?
Lumos is extremely grateful [for] the generous support of our Founder, and yes, all the proceeds of the sale of Beedle the Bard meet Lumos’s operating costs. What this means is that the money we raise through fundraising goes directly to the projects where we work in Moldova, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Ukraine – we call this our 100% pledge. Lumos works in these countries by demonstrating, to the national and local authorities, the benefits and results of investing in changing the system that drives children into institutions. Our projects are varied but all contribute to getting children out of institutions and back to either their family, a foster family, or within family-based care. Among many other things, we have closed three institutions in the last two years in Moldova alone; set up a number of small group homes for children who, for a range of reasons, cannot go into a traditional family home; and supported the development of inclusive education programs, which means that children with disabilities can go to a mainstream school, much like they do in the UK and most other developed countries. We have provided emergency feeding programs for hundreds of children who were at danger of death as a result of being in institutions, and we have trained many care workers, policy makers, and education providers to better support disadvantaged children and meet their individual needs. The work Lumos does not only benefits children we are helping today but is [also] about investing in changing the system that means children in the future will not go into an institution in the first place.
There are many ways in which you can support the work of Lumos:
- Leave a Legacy
More information can be found via the website.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard first appeared as a fictional book in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final book of the young wizard’s adventures. It was purported to be a popular collection of five wizarding children’s fairy tales that was bequeathed to Hermione Granger by the will of Professor Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts. Containing clues that were to prove crucial to Harry and his friends during his final mission to destroy Lord Voldemort, only one story – The Tale of the Three Brothers – is recounted in the book.
In The Tales of Beedle the Bard, the four remaining stories are revealed for the very first time. Net proceeds from the sale of this book go to fund the work of Lumos.
In 2013, J.K. Rowling auctioned off the beautiful Lumos Maxima charm bracelet, a duplicate of her own treasured possession. The eleven handmade sterling silver charms, finished by hand with gold highlights and precious stones, draw inspiration from the Harry Potter series, excluding the butterfly which is, of course, the Lumos logo.
During its Sotheby’s auction, the bracelet was purchased for £20,000 by Scottish businessman, Alan Fergusson. He commented afterwards:
J.K. Rowling said before the auction that she was certain the sister bracelet would go to a very nice woman, and she can be confident the bracelet will be treasured by Yvonne and my family for generations. My wife absolutely adores the Harry Potter series and she now can’t wait until Christmas Day to open her present. As someone who supports a number of charitable causes, it has also been very pleasing to back a charity which creates opportunity for so many disadvantaged young people across the world.
The Harry Potter Alliance
The Harry Potter Alliance
“The Weapon We Have Is Love”
Inspired by the messages of love and justice that drive the Harry Potter series, the Harry Potter Alliance was founded with the aim of utilizing fan passion to inspire and affect social change. Since its birth, the Harry Potter Alliance has inspired hundreds of thousands of Harry Potter fans to become heroes of the Muggle world.
To date, the Harry Potter Alliance has donated over 88,000 books around the world, sent ﬁve cargo planes to Haiti, and made significant contributions to the anti-genocide, LGBTQ equality, environmental, and media reform movements.
They are the Muggle world’s real-life Dumbledore’s Army!
- Join the HPA
- Current Projects
- Discover More
Whether you wish to participate remotely or get involved on the ground at your local HPA Chapter, there are plenty of opportunities for you to contribute to the Harry Potter Alliance’s work.
The Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) is a 501c3 nonprofit that takes an outside-of-the-box approach to civic engagement by using parallels from the Harry Potter books to educate and mobilize young people across the world toward issues of literacy, equality, and human rights. Our mission is to empower our members to act like the heroes that they love by acting for a better world. By bringing together fans of blockbuster books, TV shows, movies, and YouTube celebrities we are harnessing the power of popular culture toward making our world a better place. Our goal is to make civic engagement exciting by channeling the entertainment-saturated facets of our culture toward mobilization for deep and lasting social change.
Our strategy includes:
- Utilizing elements of our favorite fictional universes as metaphors for making sense of complex, contemporary issues.
- Inspiring our members to take action in their local communities and all across the planet, using the power of their creativity, intelligence, and compassion to change the world.
- Creating a worldwide network of enthusiastic fan activists who are connected via the internet and social media as well as local, community-based chapters.
- Harnessing the media cycle to bring attention and action to issues of equality, human rights, and literacy.
- Bringing a diverse range of inspiration and imagination to the front lines of social change by forging partnerships between multiple fan communities.
We do not need magic to change the world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.– J.K. Rowling
Not in Harry’s Name
The HPA’s latest campaign is developed out of their discovery of the darker side of the chocolate industry. Recent studies revealed that one of the most corrupt agricultural crops in the world is the cocoa plant. In West Africa, thousands of children are being forced to work for the production of cocoa. The Fair Trade scheme are seeking to stamp out child slavery, and in the meantime, they are making it clear to customers, via accreditation, if their product has been produced under such circumstances.
An independent report recently reviewed the chocolate used in Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter-branded products, only to give an “F” rating for human rights.
The Harry Potter Alliance is now working toward making sure that all chocolate sold by Warner Bros. for merchandising purposes doesn’t use child slavery. Find out more here.
Odds In Our Favor: The Resistance Is Catching Fire
Economic inequality knows no boundaries — it is pervasive and persistent, and it affects every city, region, and country across the world. The gap between the wealthy and the poor grows wider every day, while the middle class shrinks and more people find themselves short of what they need to get by.
Who controls the narrative? The rich and powerful tell us that if we put our heads down and work hard, we can overcome the odds and join the ranks of the victors — the wealthy and privileged few. However, it’s increasingly clear that the game is rigged, and that we have an important role to play: At best, we are the loyal consumers. At worst, we are the ones who slip through the cracks.
And that’s why we’re taking back the narrative. The Hunger Games explores numerous themes that are relevant to the imbalances that exist in our world. In Catching Fire, Katniss Everdeen solidifies her role as a symbol for change and sets the resistance in motion. Thus, the release of the Catching Fire film represents a perfect opportunity to establish a dialogue about our own problems and set the wheels in motion for positive change. Instead, Catching Fire is being used as an opportunity to sell makeup and fast-food sandwiches.
And we have a very simple response to that: Not on our watch.
This time we’re taking the resistance straight to the Capitol. Using their own marketing website as our platform, we’re assembling an army of Katniss Everdeens and flooding every Capitol advertisement with three-fingered salutes, information about economic inequality, and links to resources where followers of the Capitol can learn more about the people of the real-world districts and the worthy goals they’re trying to achieve.
Want to get involved? Join the resistance at OddsInOurFavor.org. You’ll be added to our action network and you’ll receive regular calls to action over the next few weeks. Additionally, you’ll be able to join our in-theater action around the release of the Catching Fire film, and you’ll be part of a dynamic movement that grows out of these initial actions.
You can also participate in our related We Are The Districts project. Run by our Chapters Staff, this blog is an ongoing documentation of real people taking a stand against economic inequality. Although it features campaigns and events organized by HPA chapters, We Are The Districts is open to blog submissions from all HPA members and the general public.
Find more information here.
“I am honored and humbled that Harry’s name has been given to such an extraordinary campaign, which really does exemplify the values for which Dumbledore’s Army fought in the books.”– J.K. Rowling
Accio Books! is the Harry Potter Alliance’s annual book drive. Since 2009, Harry Potter fans around the world have donated more than 86,000 books to underprivileged or underserved readers.
2013: LEAKYCON EDITION
In 2013 at the Portland LeakyCon, the HPA sprung a whole new level to the Accio Books! game… attendees from all over gave up precious packing space and carted 727 books to LeakyCon to donate to Books for Kids, an awesome Portland-based literacy program.
Read Indeed is a non-profit literacy organization with a very special mission: to achieve the vision of seventh-grader Maria Keller, who wants to collect and distribute one million books to needy kids by the time she’s 18. This year, we partnered with the International Quidditch Assocation and NaNoWriMo, and we dedicated our annual Accio Books! drive to Maria’s fantastic cause. Once again, our chapters and members rose to the task, and we donated 30,217 books to communities in need!
Ravenclaws finally put an end to Hufflepuff’s domination of our Accio Books! House Cup, donating over 11,000 books — over a third of our total number! Also, Edmonton PotterWatch of Edmonton, Alberta, ran away with our Chapters Cup after collecting a mind-blowing 6,703 books! How is that even possible?! Oh right, they have love in their hearts and a desire to change the world! Therefore, anything is possible! BOOYAH!
The Bedford-Stuyvesant New Beginnings Charter School (BSNBCS) opened in September of 2010 without a library. For our 2011 Accio Books! campaign, HPA members and chapters came together to fix this by sending in over 11,000 books (which our local NYDA chapter helped to sort). In August 2011, we were thrilled to helped open the “Imagine Better” Library at the New Beginnings Charter School.
The winner of the 2011 House Cup competition was Hufflepuff, which makes them the reigning Accio Books champion for two straight years! Go Badgers!
In 2010, HPA members and chapters donated 41,415 books: half of which went to our partner The Delta Center for Culture and Learning. The Delta Center distributed those books to communities in need across the Mississippi Delta.
The House Cup winners? Hufflepuff!
In 2009, The HPA launched our first ever Accio Books! drive. Our goal for the first annual book drive? Collect and donate 500 books. The response? HPA members and chapters donated 13,481 to local communities across the world and our partner ASYV (Agohozo Shalom Youth Vilage) in Rwanda.
Ravenclaw took the House Cup, thanks to special guest Head of House Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter films).
Find more information here.
Comic Relief is a major UK charity that strives to fight global poverty, using the power of entertainment as a vehicle for change.
The charity hosts two major fundraising events, Red Nose Day and Sport Relief, enabling their year-round ambition to tackle the causes of poverty and social injustice around the world.
Since its launch in 1985, Comic Relief has raised over £900 million, worked in more than 70 countries, and funded 15,786 projects in the UK alone.
In 2001, J.K. Rowling was invited to participate in that year’s fundraising efforts. Her agreement culminated in the publication of two short books inspired by the Harry Potter series.
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- Quidditch Through the Ages
“A copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them resides in almost every wizarding household in the country. Now Muggles too have the chance to discover where the Quintaped lives, what the Puffskein eats, and why it is best not to leave milk out for a Knarl.“
It was announced in 2013 that J.K. Rowling will be adapting Fantastic Beasts into a film series, as part of an “expanded creative partnership” with Warner Bros. The first script, confirmed to revolve around the book’s fictitious author Newt Scamander, is currently in development.
“If you have ever asked yourself where the Golden Snitch came from, how the Bludgers came into existence, or why the Wigtown Wanderers have pictures of meat cleavers on their robes, you need Quidditch Through the Ages. This edition is a copy of the volume in Hogwarts School Library, where it is consulted by young Quidditch fans on an almost daily basis.”