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Facebook Live: J.K. Rowling in conversation with Lauren Laverne

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Thank you, a beautiful film, beautifully narrated by J.K. Rowling. Thank you very much for being here. I think that illustrates, the importance of the work that Lumos are doing, and a very warm welcome and thank you for joining us to everybody who's watching at home on Facebook live. So Jo, how are you doing? I'm doing alright thank you. So what are year it's been for you? I mean absolutely incredible, before we start talking about Lumos, let's just look at some of the greatest hits that have been going on in recent months. Of course the stage play [yes] Just down the road from where we are tonight - ‘Harry Potter the Cursed Child’ - opened here at the Palace Theatre in London a few months ago to rave reviews, the script book of the play is a number one bestseller - that's been published, and the next date for the diary is November the 18th for the release of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' and of course I do have to mention ‘Career of Evil’, another best-selling novel - although Robert Galbraith obviously, on the cover. That came out in paperback earlier in the year - how on earth do you manage all, how do you fit it all in? I have a very very supportive family, and I never answer emails. I find it makes life a lot simpler if you just forget a lot of things you're supposed to be doing - it's quite annoying for people but I tend to prioritize my writing life, Lumos, and my children. Children normally come first depending on how they're behaving. It's nearly 10 years since the last Harry Potter book, I mean what's it been like revisiting the wizarding world again? 2016 is very wizardy, because I stepped away - as completely as I can ever step away from Harry Potter - I really stepped away for about six or seven years, and I wrote ‘The Casual Vacancy’, and I wrote the first Galbraith - and I wrote some other things that will probably see the light of day at some point - and I had a real break, but at the back of my mind I always knew we would probably do ‘Fantastic Beasts’. But Harry Potter, has a kind of gravitational pull of its own because the fan base is so enthusiastic still and so engaged, I don't think I'll ever be entirely separate from Harry Potter, nor would I want to be I have to say. So it's always there to plug into [Yeah] when you’re ready. I mean obviously lots of children and lots of grown-ups, absolutely thrilled that you've returned to the wizarding world, and a lot of people - I mean I hear it from my friends, but you must hear it all the time - people say that, you know that, their kids started reading through the Harry Potter books. There is know I say this every time and I really mean it - what could be better to hear than that? And I have people tell me: "Oh first I read the books to my child, and then he read them, and then we queued at midnight, and then we have multiple copies in the house because we were fighting over them" - and not just for the royalties - but you know, that is an amazing thing to hear. There's also a phenomenon that is very meaningful to me and very real to me, which is I know those books - which were rooted in some of my own experiences of pain and loss and so on - I know they meant a lot particularly to people who were going through very difficult times. Particularly young people, and I've met countless people who have told me that that was their refuge, Hogwarts was their safe place and those characters were their family. So that is hugely meaningful to me. And I mean this is the main reason that we're here tonight in some ways - talking about, to talk about the importance of family. That's a real, a key part of what Lumos is all about: supporting families around the world. It is absolutely key. We have now about 80 years’ worth of research to show that it is essential for a child's normal development - by which I mean psychological, emotional, physical as well - that they have sustained, one-on-one, loving care. Now that doesn't mean that you have to be in a picture-perfect, advert-ready family, with 2.2 children, not at all. It means literally what it says: you need a loving one-on-one relationship. Normally that will be your family, sometimes it can't be your family, but it could be a different family. And yet we know as you've just seen on the film, we know that there are an estimated eight million children currently institutionalised in the world, and we know that at least eighty percent of them aren't orphans. I think that's going to be a big surprise to people. I mean there are a few kind of things that people are going to have to get their heads around - that's going to be one of the key surprises: that most children in orphanages are not orphans. Well, I mean I'm not blaming anyone because, you know, it's called an orphanage - so what are you going to think! And I think that we have a cultural assumption - although it's a little illogical because we know most of us here tonight have grown up in quite privileged countries, and we know that we don't do that to our own children anymore, so that's kind of the clue. But we do have a cultural assumption that these institutions exist because the child has nowhere else to go, and the reality unfortunately is very, very different. And we do know - all of the research agrees - that there is little you can do worse for a child, than put it in an institution. I have met babies who have learned not to cry, and I have entered rooms with very small children who will come sit on my lap - they don't know my name, they don't know me from Adam, from Eve, but they will crawl over me because as we all know - anyone who has ever had anything to do with small children - they are hard-wired to love and to seek love. A baby doesn't just cry for food it wants care, and this makes these children exceptionally vulnerable, they have profound attachment issues, and the film just showed: there was a Russian study, that showed that children who left an institution at 18 were 10 times more likely to enter prostitution, 50 times more likely to have a criminal past, and 500 times more likely to kill themselves. 500 times. So it is this vast, silent tragedy. And there's a lot of research out there about it. - Huge amount of research, and it always reaches the same conclusions. I mean obviously as you mentioned, for any parent watching, if anything happened to them an orphanage will be the last option - wouldn't it? Everybody would rather have their kids brought up by extended family, or friends or you know like you say that one-on-one care, but I suppose, you know, in other countries, that there's a different situation isn't there? And if you're in a part of the world where there is no option for parents but to give up their children so that the child can have food - It’s sometimes as basic as food, so you have a system that incentivizes family breakup. So, a good question I am often asked, I'm ask many questions when I start to explain the issue to people and why I'm involved in it - we are culpable in this, we are incentivizing this system. Now, with the very, very, very best intentions, we all of us in this room will have given money to try and help children. It's primal, it's our instinct we want to help children, and that is an honourable and a magnificent thing. However, what you may be doing is contributing towards real harm. So poverty, as you say, is absolutely the number one driver into institutions - the only place I can feed my child as if I give them up to the institution, the only place I can get medical support - that's why we have many disabled children in these institutions globally - is if I put them in the institution. So the result is, unfortunately, that some – at the benign end - some orphanages are set up with the best possible intentions. Unfortunately, the research shows, even well-run institutions do a lot of damage. Then, unfortunately you have institutions that really are run as businesses, because we know that where a lot of donor money goes into orphanages, more and more are set up. And that's not because parents are dying, it's because it's a money magnet and it pulls in young people who come in - again with the best possible intentions - they want to volunteer in orphanages, and they're bringing foreign currency into the country too. And then, at the most grisly, ghastly and appalling end, these places are absolute magnets for abusers. A child has been cut adrift from its biological family, you don't have people keeping tabs on what's happening to that child, and, as I've said, these children have attachment issues so they're extremely easy to manipulate. So, where is this happening? And if we know that orphanages are not good places for children to be, why is it still happening? Does it go back to that financial cycle that you described? Anywhere that there's been a natural disaster, orphanages will spring up. Anywhere that there's poverty you will find orphanages, so it's all over the world - you'll find institutions on every continent. There will always be cultural differences. You ask: why if we know?Well, there are cynical reasons - but sometimes what's causing the institutions is also the reason they can't dismantle the system: its poverty. It does take money, when you've got tens of thousands of children in institutions, to re-train workers so that they can do community-based care, to institute a new and better system - that does take some money. So when Lumos is asking for funds, 100% of which goes to programmes, children - sometimes it goes to children who are very malnourished or very sick - 100% of that money will go into the field, because I cover core costs, so that's an important point to get across. So on Twitter you recently highlighted the issues around volunteers working in orphanages abroad - I went on a rant, I went on, I think the technical term is a tweet storm. Yes - I didn't mean to do that at all, in fact, it was quite an angry response. What happened was, that I tweeted something in support of Lumos, and as often happens when I do tweet something - quite reasonably - a lot of people will come and say "Oh, could you retweet this for my charity?" and so on. and in the responses I got to this tweet about Lumos was a charity - well, I'm going to call it to charity I’m being quite kind - it was a company that runs volunteer 'experiences'. Now voluntourism, as I'm sure most people in this room will know, but if they don't, then I will say voluntourism is the term that we give to people who volunteer to go and work abroad. But the key distinguisher between voluntourism and something that's worthwhile to do, is voluntourism really does no one any good. So we're talking about young people - but they are doing it with the best intentions, I know that - they're going into orphanages, they are perpetuating the attachment disorders these poor children have, and then they leave. This company that tweeted me was saying that this was a great thing to do as a ‘CV distinguisher’, and I was really disgusted actually. I thought about naming and shaming and I didn't, and I'm glad I didn't because I think that would have taken away from what I really wanted to say, which was to make a broader point to young people thinking about doing this. This company was actually operating a Moldova, which is one of the very poorest countries in Europe, and it was saying “many institutions have closed” - which we, Lumos, is facilitating, we're helping them close them - safely, getting children into back to families or into foster care. And it said “But we've still got some places for you to volunteer," and it's like "It's okay! We've still got some people in this dire situation, you can come volunteer.” So I got quite upset and I did my big Twitter rant about it. But I would say to any 18 or 19 year old who wants to volunteer, go volunteer in a community-based project, do your research, make sure you know what you're doing make sure you're really making a difference, because you could, with the best intentions, be propping up a system that is harming children. Ok, so let's talk about the solution then, I mean to these options of being destitute on the street or being in an orphanage - there are solutions. There are definitely solutions. It's important to say that we are not walking in saying "We know the answers, and let us impose our answers on you," because in every one of the countries we're working in there are experts on the ground who know what needs doing. But they often don't have the funds to do it, and they don't have the clout that some NGOs have. We are very lucky we partner with the EU and we work with the UN and WHO and we can redirect funds, we give our own funds of course, but we can also help put a package together. So, what's the answer? Well, many people have vested interest in keeping the orphanages open - and again I use the word ‘orphanages’ and I don't like using it - the institution's open, and again that's not always nefarious, It could be people who say "This is a poor country, this is my livelihood working in this institution." Well our answer is, you do not have to lose your job. We will provide the funds so you're retrained as a community worker; you can become a health nurse; you run a day centre where we’ll give nursery care, so people can work. We don't want to take your livelihood away, we want to show you how we can make this work for the children and for you. So that's one solution, that's what we would do with the actual institutions. As I've said, sometimes the children are very sick we would be looking to obviously give them food and medical care and so on. We also need systemic change, so we're working with governments to enact legislation that means that once they're closed they don't reopen. And foster care is huge, because where, as I say, 80% of children generally speaking can go back to family with the support - the family want them - but where that's not possible, foster care is normally are answer, high-quality foster families. So it sounds like Lumos is having a huge impact, I mean it started out as a spell in Harry Potter, but it isn't just a spell anymore - its really changing things. It is, I think the latest figures that we got - 17,000 children out of institutions to date - which I’m very proud of. We have set up, as I say, various systems: high-quality foster care; and also small group homes where children effectively live in a family type situation so it's consistent, it’s that one-on-one loving care we're talking about. We've prevented 15,000 children going into institutions and we're working more and more countries as we go, so yeah, I'm very proud. I am not surprised, and this really is at the heart of what Lumos is all about isn't it? I mean creating real step-change, solid goals, and - 100%. If you take nothing else away tonight I would like you to remember - this is a solvable problem. We can actually finish this, we could solve this. Eight million children, it’s this unfathomably large figure, it's so hard to really take that in, what that means - eight million children, but we can solve it. We absolutely do need funds but we also need to change minds, if we change minds we will change lives. If people understand: "I'm not going to give money to this orphanage. I'm going through a little bit of research and I'm gonna find out who's operating in that country, who will reunite families, I'll give the money there." If everyone did that, that would change so much. If you if you go forth tonight and you hear someone say: "Well you know he's going to volunteer in an orphanage," or "We're helping set up an orphanage," - you know, the re-education in itself will stop this happening going forward. I mean Jo, you set the charity up I think about 10 years ago, you must be immensely proud of what it’s achieved over that time. I am, because I've met children who we've managed to get back to their families, and they want to become advocates for the NGO. I met a little girl not long ago - well I say little, she appeared to me to be 12 years old when she was actually nearly 15, but this is what institutions do to children, their physical development also, the research shows, is impaired - but she's now an incredibly articulate advocate for deinstitutionalization, so yeah. that's a wonderful thing. And we do know, I think it's just over 4,000 occasions, where we found children who were very severely neglected, and we believe we saved lives, so that's obviously massive also. Fantastic. You must get a lot of support from the Harry Potter fan community as well. - I do. - Tell me about them. They’re... extraordinary. I've never heard of a fandom that's so engaged. And they are a real activist fandom actually, and I am immensely proud of that, I am. They’ve done fundraising and they've done awareness-raising - and yes, they're extraordinary. Well speaking of those extraordinary people - you know that when we announced this Facebook live broadcast that we're currently right in the middle of, we threw the question out - we asked the world what questions they would like to ask you about Lumos, and unsurprisingly we were inundated. Got a couple here, and the first comes from Ardit Haliti, this is a lovely question: On Lumos’ website, it states that 80% of children that are living in orphanages - as we've talked about - and they're not in fact often orphans, but what work does Lumos do, to ensure that the remaining 20% of children who are orphans also get the love and care that they deserve? Well that is a brilliant question because that's a question I get asked all the time: "Ah! But some of them are orphans, so what are you gonna do there?’ Well the answer is we need high-quality foster care where it's appropriate - and obviously it's all dependent on the child's particular circumstances; it may be appropriate to have something like Barnardo's used to have - small scale, family-sized, care units as it were, which is as close to a family as you could get - we've set those up. Adoption in the child's own community is almost always the best way to proceed when you when you're trying to settle a child. So there are lots of different options depending on what the country is. Ok, and second up from Jenny King: I imagine that the journey of Harry Potter provides hope for some orphaned children, in showing them that the Sun may truly one day emerge from behind even the densest of clouds. What do you think is the most important life lesson for a wizard? For a wizard? Well, I've said this before: what's the most important life lesson for wizard, is exactly the same as for a muggle - because ultimately those books were about human nature and examining the fact that even when people were given magic it didn't solve everything, the same problems existed, just in a different form, people could still be bigoted and cruel. So my answer would be... What's the best life lesson for a wizard? It would be the same as for the rest of us, which is you do the best you can, where you are, with what you've got, and that's what I think we should all try and do. I think that's the perfect note to wrap the interview up. Thank you so much! It just leave me to say a huge thank you to Jo, for all of the wonderful pleasure that you’ve given so many children and adults around the world through your work, but also for your passion for this cause and setting up Lumos which is making such a huge difference in the lives of children around the world. Thank you very much indeed. - Thank you.

Video Details

Duration: 22 minutes and 23 seconds
Language: English
License: Dotsub - Standard License
Genre: None
Views: 7
Posted by: lumos on Nov 10, 2016

Author and Founder of Lumos, J.K. Rowling talks to Host Lauren Laverne. The interview marks the official launch of We Are Lumos Worldwide; a global campaign to raise awareness of the eight million children living in orphanages around the world, and the work that Lumos is doing to help them return to family life.

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