The Angel of Peckham has fallen. Or so the newspapers said. On Friday, the news that Camila Batmanghelidjh – founder of the charity Kids Company which supports the most disadvantaged young people in the UK – was stepping down as Chief Executive hit the headlines.
Over the last few days, I have poured over the stories. The reason for her move is clearly complex and I couldn’t and wouldn’t profess to know what’s going on behind the headlines but I did have the privilege of meeting Camila last year for my new book and she was, without doubt, one of the most extraordinary and inspirational people I have ever met. Over a box of Lola’s cupcakes (I ate one, she didn’t) we talked about food and swimming and motherhood. One of the reasons I wanted to meet her and something that really fascinates me is that she is incredibly maternal, has dedicated her life to helping children, but has chosen never to have any herself. I wanted to ask her why that was and whether she thought it was possible to be a mother without being a mother.
For her answer to that question you’ll have to wait until my book comes out but what I do feel compelled to say today is that I believe that Camila Batmanghelidjh is a good woman. A woman whose whole life has been driven by a vocation to help young people in a profound and altruistic way. And one of the things that has struck me about all the stories I’ve read over the last few days is the absence of any in depth analysis of the circumstances and needs of the young people she’s trying to help. In my view we have created a society that is failing children in many and different ways and trying to help the most disadvantaged among them is a deeply difficult thing. There are so many factors that influence their lives which because they are children not adults are beyond their control and it is very often the adults in their lives that have let them down. For any young person who has been damaged turning their disadvantage into advantage is a life’s work. We are blessed to have people like Camila who have dedicated their life to do it and there are so many young people who need this angel to rise again.