REVIEW: Mind the Child by Camila Batmanghelidjh and Kids Company

In brief: The kids of the Underground – abused, poor and hungry.

The good: The stories by the kids – brutally honest.

The not-so-good: I googled Kids Company after finishing and…hmm…

Why I chose it: Last book of the Penguin Lines series celebrating 150 years of the Underground.

Year: 2013

Pages: 148

Publisher: Penguin

Setting: The Victoria Line

Rating: 9 out of 10

Mind the Child is the last of the books I’ve read in the Penguin Lines. It’s been an up and down ride, with some books excellent and some not so. Mind the Child is another play on the word underground, this time looking at the underground children of London. This is the story of children who have been abandoned, run away or left to their own devices in the care of barely functioning adults. Abuse is rife, whether it be drugs, sexual or physical. These kids have to fend for themselves from a young age and often go hungry or turn to gangs, drug running or prostitution to live.

Camila Batmanghelidjh, the CEO of Kids Company at the time, discusses how the brains of these children are different and how care, love and a supportive environment can assist. I found the neuropsychiatry interesting, but it was the stories told by the kids themselves that have the most power. These stories are brutally honest, sometimes horrifying at the things they need to do to survive. Sometimes the system isn’t fair either. The story of one young man who wanted to work with computers and enrolled in a college course, only to be told that his government assistance would decrease to the point where he couldn’t afford rent, was exceptionally sad. He was told to drop his course, which he did and he now runs drugs, making much more money but without realising his dream.

I looked up Kids Company after reading this, as it seemed like a great charity, only to find that it is no more after financial and other issues. This shouldn’t detract away from the book though, as the stories told are heartbreaking.

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