iran / Radio / Woman of the Year

Camila Batmanghelidjh

Camila Batmanghelidjh is a psychotherapist and founder/director of Kids Company, a London charity devoted to ‘lone’ children (young people who experience significant psychosocial difficulties because their parent is unable to function as a caring adult). The lack of a functioning adult has a negative impact on their ability to access education, health, housing and meaningful employment.

Born in Tehran to prosperous Iranian and Belgian parents, Batmanghelidjh went to public school in Dorset, England. Her father was Dr. Fereydoon Batmanghelidj.

Severely dyslexic, Batmanghelidjh completed her studies using a tape recorder instead of pen and paper. She completed her degree in theatre and dramatic arts at Warwick Uni gaining First Class Honours. Then she did a Master’s degree on the philosophy of counselling and psychotherapy, two years of child observation and a course in art therapy at Goldsmith’s. For four years, she trained in psychotherapy. She also worked with children as a nanny, and discovered a talent for the work.

Batmanghelidjh used her mortgage repayments to set up “The Place to Be”, offering psychotherapy and counselling to children in schools. It is now a national project and serves in excess of 20,000 children a year.

Camila is Director of “Kids Company” a registered charity. Kids Company supports children with severe behavioural, emotional and social difficulties resulting from significant levels of trauma and neglect. The children often suffer from abuse, mental health problems, substance misuse and homelessness. Kids Company aims to restore their trust and provide an environment in which they can begin the healing process, using a carefully designed support system that includes psychotherapy, counselling, education, arts, sports, hot meals and various other practical interventions.

Kids Company currently delivers services to 11,925 clients through – 33 inner-city schools in London, – a drop-in centre at street-level in Camberwell and – a new, post-fourteen educational institute, the Urban Academy in Southwark.

For ten years Kids Company has survived due to the support of charitable trusts and businesses. It has been a ‘hand to mouth’ existence for the organisation. On two occasions Camila re-mortgaged her flat to see Kids Company through its lack of funding.

Batmanghelidjh won the Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2005. She has written Shattered Lives: Children Who Live with Courage and Dignity, ISBN 1-84310-434-2 and other papers. She was also nominated in The Good List 2006, of exceptional people.

She appeared at the 2006 Conservative Party Conference and was awarded the Woman of the year award for 2006 in recognition of her work with Kids Company.

She has curated two major art exhibitions, one called “Shrinking Childhoods” at the Tate Modern in 2005 and “Demons and Angels: Does it have to be this way?” at Shoreditch Town Hall.

She appeared on Desert Island Discs on Sunday 22nd October, 2006 and talks today to Fari Bradley about the company, the children and is accompanied by one of the many kids that Kids Company has helped.

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