“Welcome, please don’t spit.”

Ursula Curwen, Programme Leader for MA Youth and Community Work from the Department for Social and Psychological Sciences guest blogs about last week’s lecture.

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This is how Camila Batmanghelidjh, Tehran meets East London, greeted young people into her first youth project or so she told us at her lecture on the 14th June. Everything about her is larger than life from her colourful handmade clothing to her attitude to those who make policy. Her view is, quite simply, that if you offer a damaged child love (unconditional but challenging) you stand a very good chance of enabling them to heal or cope with his world. She delivered a calm but impassioned presentation and, as a trained psychologist, backed her thinking with all the research data you could want about brain function and emotional well being.

Somehow you can’t help but admire a woman who would put on the line her own money to care for the hardest to help children but, as she asked, when an abused child is supposed to be taken to a meeting with the welfare services by the very person who is their abuser then how can the system work? The workers, she believes, need to be where the children are and in fact it is support services that are ‘hard to reach’ not young people.

The audience were on their feet as she concluded and reaching for their wallets to contribute to the 12 million she has to fundraise each year. Several had even volunteered to help her during the question and answer session. Children are fortunate indeed to have such an advocate.