KIDS COMPANY, Registered Charity No 106829
St Mary’s Focus Charity Award 2014
One early November evening in 2010 I had the pleasure of, first, welcoming to a concert
given in the Royal Albert Hall by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Janusz
Piotrowicz, a lady, attired in brightly coloured national costume complete with matching
ornate headdress, and, then, after listening to Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Dvorak,
inviting her to speak at a Reception hosted by The World Trust in the Elgar Room.
The lady was the charismatic Iranian born Camila Batmanghelidjh, who in 1996 founded Kids Company, a charity designed to provide practical, emotional and educational support to children and young adults in some of London’s most disadvantaged communities; and it was for Kids Company that The World Trust had organised a collection before and after the concert. During the Trust’s preliminary research I had become increasingly impressed by the wide variety of ways in which the Founder and her dedicated staff were fulfilling their aims – an impression immeasurably reinforced by what Camila told us in her speech.
Children rely on those who look after them to create a safe and nurturing home environment, but sadly there are all too many parents – some living not so very far away from us – who are unable to sustain an adequate standard of care due, for instance, to poverty, mental health or drug problems or simply because they are not yet ready for the task of parenting. As a result children are having to live in surroundings which are dirty, insanitary and often lacking in the most basic necessities such as clean bedding, warm clothes, cups, plates or simple furniture. Even families in Local Authority accommodation are compelled to endure conditions of poverty and neglect, especially when social services departments are at breaking point because demands outweigh resources.
These exceptionally vulnerable children, moreover, face not only wretchedness at home, but also constant risks and dangers within their own neighbourhoods. Often they are exposed to chronic abuse and mindless violence, some being forced into working as drug couriers or prostitutes. When, as is frequently the case, fathers are absent, the relentless pressures on teenagers to join gangs can be irresistible.
Reaching 36,000 young people across London, Kids Company operates through 6 Centres, a Therapy House and in 41 schools, primary and secondary, faith and non-faith – of which 6 are in Battersea – where, crucially, children are supported in their difficulties while remaining engaged with formal education. Examples of Kids Company’s diverse activities – tailored, as necessary, to the needs of each individual so as to lead to the achievement of full potential – include: after school sports, art, music and drama clubs; opportunities to improve physical fitness, self-esteem and team building skills; practical help through advice on housing, job-finding, drug prevention, sexual health, youth offending programmes, cooking and nutrition workshops, gardening projects, horse riding, rock climbing, choir singing, photography, fashion, massage, yoga, nail and beauty treatment. Albeit by no means exhaustive, this list will, I hope, reassure readers that this years Focus Charity Award of £1,500 could not be given to a more urgent or deserving cause.
[Adrian Longley is a solicitor who helped to set up The World Trust as a charity in 1986,
and is its legal advisor. At the Trust’s next concert – all Mendelssohn – at the Cadogan
Hall on Tuesday 20 May 2014, there will be another collection for Kids Company.]