My Week: Camila Batmanghelidjh of Kids Company

The charity's founder on the ups and downs of helping children - and organising Christmas for 7,000.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
After I wake up in the morning, I do some pilates and then I have breakfast – normally a bit of cereal. Then I get dressed. It usually only takes me two minutes, because I throw on all the colours I feel like being that day – whether that’s a blue or a purple or whatever.

Then I go to analysis – usually for 15 minutes, because I’m too bored to think about myself for a whole hour. It’s very important to do, though. Running my charity, Kids Company, means I see perverse levels of horror, so it’s really important to have a space to clear out my thinking and make sure I remain non-judgemental.

As an example, this week we had a very serious case of a child who was found with some paedophiles. I had to spend a good deal of my week trying to get social services to pick up the case. But then I also had the launch of an American Express campaign – it’s chosen us as its charity for Christmas. So I found myself conducting Boris Johnson and the CEO of Selfridges, as well as someone from Boots and someone from M&S in a mock choir outside a church to publicise it. And then I had to come back and deal with that case. You just have to be very disciplined, and be able to switch gears. Obviously, you get impacted by the children’s circumstances all the time but creating a boundary is important.

The other thing I had to do this week was to plan for the children’s Christmas. We’ve got 3,500 kids coming on Christmas day – and another 3,500 kids that we’re going to deliver food to. Each child gets their own bag of presents, and all the teenagers get a basket of toiletries. Then there’s the food and the transport, which is a big job in itself. So I got my team together to plan how we were going to organise it all

I spend my evenings responding to emails: I get about 300 a day. I have dyslexia, so I can’t type myself – I have to dictate everything. I answer all my emails, but I get so bored after a while. When it gets past six o’clock, it’s like loony time: I torment my PAs by adopting different accents. Anything from Scandinavian, to Scottish to German – they get it all…

I don’t get much of a chance to relax, but I love swimming – I’ll swim for four or five hours in one go. I can only get away about once a month – but I really look forward to it. Usually, though, my working hours are so busy. I’m up by 4.30, five o’clock, and then I work through until about 11 in the evening. It’s just because of the sheer volume of work and fundraising – and then dealing with staff, with children. But I enjoy it. You’ll find my office is a lot of fun.

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