Friday, 4 April 2008

Unsung heroines (2)

Children psychologically damaged by inadequate parents and carers often get little help and are left to grow up into seriously maladjusted adults.

It's thanks to Camila Batmanghelidjh that some 32,000 British children a year are now getting the help they desperately need through the two charities she set up - The Place To Be and Kids' Company.

She had to cope with severe childhood trauma herself after her wealthy Iranian father was arrested during the Iranian Revolution in the late seventies and had all his assets seized.

Then Camila's sister killed herself and all Camila's personal possessions were burnt by the Revolutionary Guard. She has never been able to return home.

She decided to devote her life to helping children similarly traumatised and disturbed by providing counselling, education, art therapy and other forms of support.

The children have experienced every possible crisis from physical abuse to mental health problems, substance abuse and homelessness.

Camila has remortgaged her North London flat twice as well as defaulting on mortgage payments in order to fund her two charities.

Now in her mid forties, she chose not to have children of her own so as to devote herself totally to other needy children. She works practically non-stop and is said to have not taken a holiday for 11 years.

Coming from an entrepreneurial family, she says she could have made a fortune from a commercial business but was only interested in working with less fortunate children.

I'm just astonished by her unwavering passion for those who have had such a raw deal in life when like many others she could have said "It's a terrible tragedy but there's nothing I can do about it." She thought differently and decided firmly that she could do something.

NB: All facts and figures are from Wikipedia and the BBC. They may not be completely accurate.

See also: Unsung heroines (1): human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce


  1. People like Camila make me wonder what I have to show for my life?

  2. Oh come now, Grannymar, I'm sure you have plenty to show for your life. Camila is just a prodigious exception, way out of our league!

  3. People like Camila tip the scales back to normality where bad news is concerned. I just wish she'd get more publicity like this, so that people might regain faith in humankind and copy her.

  4. I'm with Grannymar, these people are so admirable and humble at the same time. I feel that I have little to contribute other than raising decent human beings. Well done bringing her to the fore. And K8 don't underrate yourself when it comes to selfless dedication to causes.

  5. Thanks for sharing Nick. It's nice to know that not everyone's a lazy bum like me.

  6. K8 - More publicity, absolutely. The media are so stuffed with violent crime and delinquent teenagers, while people like Camila, who's been doing such positive work for years, are virtually unheard-of.

    Baino - Raising decent human beings is incredibly important, don't knock it! Turning a squawling baby into a responsible, mature adult is a major achievement!

    Nicole - I'm sure you're absolutely not a lazy bum. As you just showed with your post on the conference for teens!

  7. Wow, what an inspirational person Camilla is. (Makes me feel even more like the lazy b****** I so often am... Oh well!) I have heard little bits and pieces about her and her work but never knew the full extent of what is it she does...

    Thanks for sharing Nick :-)

  8. Wow, you lot are such apologetic, guilt-ridden souls! Just because Camila's worked her arse off for a cause she believes in, doesn't mean the rest of you are good-for-nothing, spaced-out layabouts!

    Shelly - I'm quite sure that you're NOT a lazy bastard, that you do all sorts of valuable and worthwhile things apart from scribbling blog posts! Anyway, I think the point is just to enjoy our life. There's no obligation to be Super-Altruistic, unless that's the way we are!

  9. Well Nick, I beg to differ from most of the comments in that I believe all of us do our best in our own little ways to improve the lots of those less fortunate. Small things sometimes.
    But meaningful too.
    Camilla is a star, no question, and burns brightly. Hats off to her.

  10. Absolutely, www, we all do our best for those less fortunate. Camila is one of those rare individuals with a burning, unquenchable passion she just has to pursue despite all the obstacles. Amazing.

  11. That's fantastic. I really strongly believe that there are few things worse than screwing up somebodies childhood. Life can be hard enough, we should all get the chance to have a good quota of happy-go-lucky days as kids.

  12. Thrifty, you're right, a screwed-up childhood can scar you for life, not to mention the side-effects hurting other people. She's doing a really important job that the government ought to be doing.

  13. I've never heard of Camila but am happy to learn of her big heart and good works.

    Far too many children fall through cracks in the system so it's inspiring to see someone who is actually making a difference.

  14. Too true, Heart, children fall through the cracks because adults just aren't looking out for them enough and don't realise they need some serious help with personal difficulties.

  15. I hate to see women sacrifice so much and live to serve others.
    Take a holiday!

  16. Well there's a fresh opinion, Medbh! Though I don't suppose Camila would see it that way. She would see it as helping people who desperately need the same help she was given as a child. But yes, surely she could spare a couple of weeks for a well-deserved break?