Forever Under Construction

Three Words

Posted in Children, Social work, Society by homeyra on January 30, 2007

In the last decade I had the opportunity to witness some successful average scale implementations of social improvement projects.

There is a great amount of material available online: development models, guidelines, case studies. If I had to make a parallel of projects I have knowledge of it would be the following:

  • A person sees an issue.
  • He/she decides to get involved in.
  • Sooner or later he faces an increasing and often overwhelming demand.
  • The initiator uses his own assets – knowledge, relations … or finds someone with appropriate means to address the mater in hand in a larger scale.
  • If the understanding of the problem in hand is genuine, and the initiator(s) sincerely involved, their knowledge and relations make it possible to raise enough funds to create a sustainable structure.

Although almost all the issues are related to poverty, the difficulties of implementing a project are much less about finances, and much more about written or unwritten social prejudices, and above all the project leaders’ understanding of the issue.

If I have to choose tree words in the above chapter, they will be: seeing, deciding and understanding.


I had a previous post about Camila Batmanghelidjh, psychotherapist and founder and leader of Kids Company, excertps from this new article are still an interesting read to share.

… there are “no bad children“, just children whose bitter lack of a caring adult in their lives has led to a volcanic rage which finds release in aggression. “… victims of abuse become its perpetrators, violence being the only route to empowerment that they know.”

[Camilla] … is well aware that … those three words, “no bad children”, make her a target for derision. But it is 10 years since she founded Kids Company … has defied the sceptics by providing a positive alternative … as specialists increasingly report that criminalising youngsters only pushes them further into lawlessness, Batmanghelidjh’s approach becomes more pertinent than ever…

“Some people now talk about feral’ children when referring to kids who seem wildly out of control, but I don’t like that expression because it suggests the blame lies simply within the child. The reason I speak up for these youngsters is not because I agree with what they are doing, but because I feel their story is being told only one way.”

… the missing chapter is society’s disregard for what makes a good childhood. “… Politicians talk about the importance of education and skills, but no-one mentions the priority of building a society which understands the benefits of loving care.”

Batmanghelidjh dates our present fractured society from the Thatcher era, when the potency of the individual was elevated at the expense of community. “Those left in poor circumstances on the periphery felt humiliated, and that hasn’t changed. As a result, what we’ve got … subversive economies which can’t be policed legitimately, so violence becomes the weapon of control.”

Children with no emotional anchor never learn a self-calming repertoire … they become … “thermostatically impaired,” their unmanaged energies building towards ferocious anger which explodes to cause malicious injury to others.

“With their own lives devastated by neglect or abuse, they behave like suicide bombers: they don’t care if they survive or not, for, in being uncherished, they themselves cherish nothing… they have no experience of participating or being wanted by society.” Punishment or banishment only confirms their status as the unwanted, for they have already lost the most important life source: their sense of belonging…”

“… every single child we’ve had is, or has been, so severely disturbed that other agencies and schools won’t take them. Many have been bullies and some, yes, are capable of murder. And because 95% of them are self-referrals, the agreement between us is truth. Our approach is holistic, multi-disciplinary and never judgmental, so, often for the first time in their lives, the children find adults who will listen to them and earn their trust.”

SHE makes it sound effortless, yet that is to deny the immense dedication and unstinting energy of her staff and volunteers. Through major fund-raising events – which are undoubtedly helped by her only family legacy, entrepreneurial flair – Kids Company pulls in around £4m a year …

“Our staff understand that they’re accountable only to the children. … In this kind of profession the turnover is 18 months, but 90% of our people started with us 10 years ago and they’ve stayed, giving the children 100%.”

” … Sometimes kids will say: I’ve stabbed someone’, and although I don’t want to know where, when or who, I tell them that harming another person means they’re not managing to control their emotions, so we need to get help. And by then, because of the trust between us, they come with me to see a psychiatrist … ” Of all the young people who have encountered Kids Company, fewer than half a dozen continue in criminal activity. “The rest want to be legit.”

There are legions of children … who are overlooked by the authorities and those who value bureaucracy more than the individual. “These children are as traumatised as war veterans …

“… some parents and dealers want to shoot me because I’ve pulled kids out of the drug trade. But it’s interesting that they have never done it. It would take just one bullet, and they have never done it. Why? I believe the reason is that they recognise in me the person they wish they’d known when they themselves were kids being corrupted and run by dealers.” … Excerpts from This woman dedicates her life to ASBO kids, The Herald.

Previous post: Camila

small-pomegranate.JPG See also Three cups of Tea


7 Responses

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  1. Dr Victorino de la Vega said, on January 30, 2007 at 9:49 pm

    “Batmanghelidjh dates our present fractured society from the Thatcher era, when the potency of the individual was elevated at the expense of community.”


    Strikes me as a little naïve- don’t get me wrong: I dislike Thatcher and (some of) her policies.

    But the “potency of the individual” thing started long long time ago: this man would say it started somewhere in Italy circa 1400…

    This this man would tell you it started much earlier!!

  2. Bluebear2 said, on January 31, 2007 at 4:33 am

    With all that is going on these days it’s a treat to read a good story from time to time.

  3. homeyra said, on January 31, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    It seems to me that as a general tendency Europe is less and less the sort of “Middle class” paradise it used to be. You are wondering about the “Roots” and I am amazed with the surface 🙂
    BB2, true, it’s nice to see some sanity in action for a change 🙂

  4. Monte said, on January 31, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    Thank you very much for linking to me! I see my post about Books or Bombs is listed – it reminds me of your three words. In fact, the book mentioned there – Three Cups of Tea is named for looking deeply and listening carefully to arrive at understanding – when the third cup of tea is served. I am learning that much more is possible than I have thought. It is humbling and frightening, and yet exhilarating!

  5. homeyra said, on February 1, 2007 at 5:49 am

    Dear Monte, I am always fascinated by these story. It often sounds so clear and obvious, you’d wonder what are we debating about.

  6. Monte said, on February 2, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    Indeed. Perhaps it is a hard thing for nationalists to recognize any solution – regardless of the good it accomplishes – if it can’t be said to advance their nation’s dominance. Alas, perhaps it is not peace the nationalist seeks, except as a route to dominance. But I think this is a dying view, part of modernism’s fading legacy. Like a dying snake, mighty dangerous tho.
    Have you seen my post on “What Iranians Want Americans to Know About Iran”? I’d love to hear your insights.

  7. homeyra said, on February 2, 2007 at 8:59 pm

    Dear Monte
    Just saw your post, some of its content is part of the substance of the next post here: Country A and Country B.
    I’ll have to write something clever there! It might take time 🙂
    Thank you

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