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Individual differences |
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Camila Batmanghelidjh (Template:PerB, born 1963) is a psychotherapist and social entrepreneur whose work focuses on children marginalised by society. She is the founder and director of Kids Company, a charity based in south London devoted to 'lone' children, i.e. minors who experience significant psychosocial difficulties because their parent is unable to function as a caring adult.
Born in Tehran to prosperous Iranian and Belgian parents, Batmanghelidjh was sent to an independent school in Dorset, England. The Iranian Revolution brought turmoil to the Batmanghelidjh family: her sister committed suicide, her father, the physician Fereydoon Batmanghelidjh, was jailed, but Camila maintained her place at school despite a lack of funds.
Severely dyslexic, Batmanghelidjh completed her studies using a tape recorder instead of pen and paper. She gained a first class degree in theatre and dramatic arts at University of Warwick. She did a master's degree on the philosophy of counselling and psychotherapy, two years of child observation at the Tavistock Clinic, and a course in art therapy at Goldsmiths College. For four years, she trained in psychotherapy. She also worked as a nanny, and discovered a talent for working with children.
Deciding to go outside the existing structures, Batmanghelidjh used her mortgage repayments to set up The Place to Be, which offers psychotherapy and counselling to children in schools. It is now a national project and serves more than 40,000 children a year.
In the mid-1990s she then went on to found, and is still director of, Kids Company. This registered charity supports children with severe behavioural, emotional and social difficulties resulting from significant levels of trauma and neglect, which usually means the lack of even one functioning parent. Kids Company aims to restore their trust and provide an environment in which they can begin the healing process, using a variety of approaches such as psychotherapy, counselling, education, arts, sports, hot meals and various other practical interventions. It serves almost 12 000 clients through 37 schools in inner London, a drop-in centre in Camberwell, and a post-14 educational institute, the Urban Academy, in Southwark. It is financially supported by charitable trusts, government funding, and business donations, but twice Batmanghelidjh has re-mortgaged her flat to see it through a financially difficult period.
Batmanghelidjh won the Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2005. She was nominated in The Good List 2006, a list of exceptional people, and was awarded the Woman of the Year award in 2006. As another recognition of her accomplishments, she was the subject of the venerable BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs in October 2006. In 2008 she was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Open University. She has written Shattered Lives: Children Who Live with Courage and Dignity and other papers. She curated two art exhibitions, "Shrinking Childhoods" at Tate Modern in 2005 and "Demons and Angels: Does it have to be this way?" at Shoreditch Town Hall.