The charity world is a bit of a swamp. Poor Camila Batmanghelidjh, having to cope with it. She spends nearly 20 years building up a charity which looks after “violated” children who nobody else can be bothered with. She fights, begs, and nags for money to help them, she succeeds spectacularly, her charity, Kids Company, grows huge, and now she’s been ordered, by our government, to clear off and let someone else take over.
They’re fed up with her because she’s “autocratic”, gives the children pocket money, criticises our government’s child-protection efforts, and doesn’t handle the £millions she now raises as they would like. And she wears startling, brightly coloured clothes, has a “flamboyant persona” and gets up some people’s noses.
Have they ever set up a charity? Do they know that to do so, you have to be tremendously pushy, brazen, determined, single-minded verging on obsessive, and work like a demon, just to get it going. You have to fill in endless mile-long forms which ask the same question in scores of different ways, requiring scores of variations of the same answer; you have to be on constant guard against tricksters and spongers; you have to suck up to the rich and famous, who are sometimes pleasant and sometimes not.
I know all this because my daughter set up a charity looking after children hardly anyone cared about. And once you’ve set up your charity, she found, you have to go on and on nagging, begging, being “autocratic” and being called “bossy” and demanding for ever, because if you stop, the money stops, and the children are back where they started, in deep trouble. Like a lot of children here, withoutSureStarts, well-adjusted, employed parents, adequate mental-health facilities, affordable further education, a home, money or love. They shouldn’t need a Batmanghelidjh to help them survive, but they do, badly, and the more this government cuts, the more they’re going to need her.
“Or perhaps,” says Fielding, “they’d prefer a jolly, church-fete type lady, who asks politely, and only once, for whatever they can spare? That should do it.”