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.
… 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.
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See also Three cups of Tea
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