St Mary’s Focus Charity Award 2014

Adrian Longley writes about Kids Company

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.

Camila BatmanghelidjhThe 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
[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.]