Local tribute paid to Kids Company charity founder Camila Batmanghelidjh - The Leamington Observer

Local tribute paid to Kids Company charity founder Camila Batmanghelidjh

Leamington Editorial 4th Jan, 2024   0

LOCAL tribute has been paid to “colourful” Kids Company charity founder and social justice campaigner Camila Batmanghelidjh who died aged 61.

Ms Batmanghelidjh, an Iranian-Belgian, died on her birthday on New Year’s Day after being ill for some time.

The former Warwick University student rose to fame after starting the Kids Company charity in 1996 in south London, to provide support to up to 36,000 deprived and vulnerable inner-city children and young people.

She was highly recognisable for her colourful dress sense and her larger than life personality but was forced to step down from the charity in 2015 amid allegations of mismanagement.

A High Court cleared her of wrongdoing.

Born into a wealthy family in Iran, Ms Batmanghelidjh arrived in England aged 12, speaking little English,

She was educated at the private Sherborne Girls school in Dorset and went on to gain a first-class degree from Warwick University.

After training as a psychotherapist, she founded Kids Company in 1996 and was its chief executive for 19 years.

The charity grew from a drop-in centre in south London to 11 centres across the capital, and also in Bristol and Liverpool.

Ms Batmanghelidjh was appointed CBE and listed among the UK’s most powerful women by BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour in 2013.

Former prime minister David Cameron, Coldplay, artist Damien Hirst and comedian Michael McIntyre were among the charity’s well-known backers.

As a result of her work supporting young people, her advice was sought by the UK’s political leaders.

Matthew Salisbury, who lived and worked with Ms Batmanghelidjh while at Warwick University in the 1980s said: “Camila was one of the few genuinely unique people I’ve ever met.

“She was great to be with. She had a boundless imagination for storytelling and an ability to laugh and make everyone laugh with her.

“She came from such a bizarre background and had lived a life we could only imagine. She was hugely generous with her time and her cooking – and most importantly with her compassion for the young people she went on to help.

“I met her a couple of times after university and, although she was now in the company of top politicians, media people and royalty, she was the same bewildering, colourful, creative soul at heart that anyone who met her in her Leamington days would remember.”

A family statement said she died “peacefully in her sleep” on the night of January 1 following a birthday celebration with loved ones.

The statement continued: “For all those around her, and especially for her family, she was an endless source of inspiration, a fountain of wit, and a kaleidoscope of colour.”

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