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'If she was a footballer, she would have been Pele' - Christian tributes to Kids Company founder who's died at 61

by Donna Birrell

Tributes are being paid to Camila Batmanghelidjh who founded the charity Kids Company, after her death at the age of 61.

She is widely credited for turning around the lives of hundreds of underprivileged youngsters in London and Bristol.

Ms Batmanghelidjh, who was born in Iran founded Kids Company in 1996. She was forced to step down in 2015 following allegations of financial mismanagement and abuse. Although she was later cleared, Kids Company collapsed.

The founder of Oasis Community Trust, Steve Chalke was a close friend and tells Premier he is privileged to have known her:

“She was way ahead of her time. She understood childhood and adolescent development, she understood the impact of poverty, the impact of abuse, the impact and neglect, the impact of violence, she understood why kids got caught up in gangs, she understood why they couldn't regulate their own behaviour. And she had developed a therapeutic model to work with them, which is why she was so successful.

“The day after Kids Company was closed, I realised the world couldn't miss out on her understanding. So I asked her to work with us in Oasis, which she's done in a totally anonymous way. But of her own doing, I was always out for promoting her. But she said no, let's just do the work. She was brilliant.

“What a privilege that I got to call her my friend. I think Camila's real legacy is every life that has been saved. I think if the research is done around the rise in youth crime and violent crime across South London since the collapse of Kids Company, there'd be a correlation there. Camila worked with children who Social Services couldn't meet the needs of, she filled the gaps in all of those statutory services. I think that's a legacy, kids that are alive, that wouldn't be alive. And I hope that within Oasis we will keep that legacy alive as well. Everyone who knew, really knew Camila knew that she was something extraordinarily special.

“I'm a football fan - and if Camila was a footballer, she'd have been Pele.”

In a post on social media, vicar and broadcaster Giles Fraser said she was "a legend in my old part of south London. Loved by so many."

In a statement, Ms Batmanghelidjh’s family said she died peacefully in her sleep on Monday after a period of “failing health”. They described her as an “endless source of inspiration” who “dedicated her life to advocating for Britain’s most vulnerable children”.

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