J.K. Rowling, world-famous author of the “Harry Potter” series, says young people should avoid visiting or volunteering in orphanages when they go traveling.
Rowling was speaking at the 2019 One Young World summit in London on Thursday to launch a new campaign, #HelpingNotHelping, by her children’s charity Lumos. The charity — named after the “light giving” spell from her books — was founded in 2005 with the mission to have all children in the world out of institutions by 2050.
The campaign aims to challenge attitudes toward orphanage tourism and volunteering, which she said was driving family separation and put children at risk of neglect and abuse. Rowling explained that in some cases orphanages were set up to exploit children, in using them as “bait” for foreign donations and a volunteer experience, with the money going into the pockets of those running these institutions.
“Don’t volunteer in orphanages,” she said, adding that young people should also not visit these institutions.
“Please don’t give your time to propping up a system that we know does real serious harm,” she said.
If young people did have money to give when they traveled, Rowling advised them to give it to local businesses as this better helped communities. Rowling also urged people to do their due diligence when considering supporting a charity and projects, to ensure it was dealing with the root causes of problems.
“We are looking to educate people because changing mindsets is going to make the difference,” she said.
‘We could change the world’
Rowling said that so often young people go to visit or volunteer in orphanages with the belief they are helping children but are “appalled when the facts are laid out in front of them.”
“If we took the same funding we’re pouring into institutions and put it towards community services and to strengthen support for families, we know we could change the world,” the writer claimed.
Research from Lumos and British thinktank YouGov, which surveyed 1,000 young people aged 17-22, found that one in five U.K. students had either visited or volunteered at an orphanage overseas, or know someone who has.
It also discovered that the majority of these trips were not planned by young people themselves, with 70% of visits organized by schools, universities or other education organizations.