Lumos shines light on child institutionalization


illustration by Sneha Augustine

Victoria Appel and Clare Lanscioni

Who is your favorite Harry Potter character? What is your Hogwarts house? These are the types of questions raised in South’s new club, Lumos, which is not only filled with Harry Potter discussions, but with students who aim to help other kids around the world, Sara Khan said, Lumos club president and founder. 

Khan created Lumos at South to combine her passions for both Harry Potter and charity, she said. The charity aspect comes from a nonprofit organization, also named Lumos, that the club donates to. Created by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling in 2005, Lumos’ objective is to end the institutionalization of children in several countries around the world by 2050. Institutions are large group homes for children, and many parents send their children to these homes because they do not have the means to support them, however these group homes are home to terrible conditions for the children. 

Khan chose to incorporate this organization into her club because she is very passionate about saving these children, as they are treated horrifically, Khan said. According to Lumos’ official website, the organization helps end the institutionalization of children by giving the families another option besides the orphanages. The organization helps provide money and resources for the family, so they are able to keep their child at home instead of sending them to the institutions. 

“Institutions basically inhumanely contain children,” Khan said. “The kids are being held behind bars [and] in cages, and they are being starved and deprived of a loving family.” 

Children are being put into these institutions primarily because their families do not have the funds to support them, so their families hope the kids will be better off in the institutions, Khan said. However, the children end up facing a harsh reality when they realize the institutions are far below their expectations of basic and reasonable care. Lumos gives money to these families so they have the funds to raise their children, and kids without families are sent to foster homes that Lumos approves firsthand, Khan said. 

“[Most] of the kids in these orphanages actually have families, but they don’t have the financial means to live at home, so the parents think it’s a better solution [to] send them to institutions,” Khan said. “But institutions are a lot worse, because they abuse the children in countless ways. [Lumos has helped many] children get out of [these] institutions and place them into either their loving homes, or if they don’t have families they put them back into foster homes, which they approve.”

Khan said her club supports the organization by donating all of the fundraising money they receive directly to the organization. Khan plans on fundraising in a variety of ways, such as partnering with restaurants or selling merchandise, Khan said. 

“We [held] three fundraising restaurant nights [in the past few weeks], and it’s just the start of the year,” Khan said. “We are also planning on making money via t-shirts and different types of Harry Potter stuff that we plan on selling, and more.” 

Although many of these activities seem to be about Harry Potter, their underlying goal has always been charity. Fundraising coordinator sophomore George Kunnel said he longs for a world where all children, and especially those in the institutions, can not only succeed in life, but do so alongside a loving family. 

“Our vision is to create a world where children have the opportunity to grow and thrive in a safe and caring family,” Kunnel said.

Junior Anu Valiaveedu, a Lumos club representative, explained how creating these fundraisers and raising money is difficult and a lot of work, but when she imagines how much of a difference it could make to these kids, everything becomes worth it. 

“I believe that we should do the most we can, even though it’s work after work, but that small amount of money that we have can mean the world to them,” Valiaveedu said.

In the Harry Potter stories, Lumos is a spell that shines light, and this club is doing exactly that. Although this topic is not well known, Lumos is trying to cast a light on this issue, Khan said. 

“Even though we don’t see it in our everyday life, they’re still out there and they deserve love,” Valiaveedu said.