What do wizards, magic wands and flying broomsticks have to do with ONE, lifesaving programs like the Global Fund, and the fight against extreme poverty?
Before attending LeakyCon, the Harry Potter Convention in Chicago a few days ago, my answer to this question was absolutely nothing. Despite being a Harry Potter aficionado and a sucker for the fantasy world it weaves, I understand that a fancy spell or a powerful imagination can’t alleviate the HIV and malnutrition that plague the world’s poorest regions and perpetuate the cycle of poverty. These complex issues that organizations like ONE tackle every day require real-world policy solutions that even the most popular book series in history and its tens of millions of dedicated fans can’t conquer.
As it turns out, the dark lord You-Know-Who isn’t the only one who underestimated the love for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter. Last weekend, 3,500 Harry Potter enthusiasts from around the world convened in Chicago for LeakyCon, the largest Harry Potter convention in North America. The convention consisted of four days of panel discussions with the actors, performances from the Potter Puppet Pals, and vendors selling everything from chocolate frogs to wizards robes, as well as booths for nonprofits like ONE, Oxfam, and Reading is Fundamental to help engage the fan base in issues of social justice.
With the help of Chicago ONE volunteers, ONE used the opportunity to campaign for the Beginning of the End of AIDS and asked participants to show their support by creating their panel for the 2015 Digital Quilt. The results were almost…magical. Everyone from foreboding Severus Snape to Crookshanks the cat to the Convention’s Quidditch champions were eager to add their voice to the thousands of people around the world calling for an end to mother to child transmission of HIV and a generation free of AIDS. By then end of the weekend, over 700 attendees created a quilt panel and signed our petition to support the lifesaving programs that fight HIV/AIDS around the world.
But perhaps the enthusiastic response from this unlikely constituency isn’t so surprising after all. For fans of a literature series that emphasizes courage in the face of darkness and the overwhelming power of love and imagination, a campaign to end AIDS an exciting and bold opportunity. If anyone can imagine a generation free of AIDS and has the passion to help us get there, it’s these guys. Lesson learned, you never know where you’ll find awesome new ONE members and volunteers committed to transcending the present and working for a better future.