Street kids: Typically orphaned or abandoned, and sometimes
abused, they are forced to the street to work or live. There
are 100 million globally, 18 million of them in India
— 250,000 in Mumbai alone. It’s numbers
like these that motivated Emma Warson, a London-based portfolio
manager and partner at $10 billion New York–based
hedge fund firm Perry Partners, to help launch Street Kids
U.K., the British branch of Street Kids International, and the
parent organization’s two pilot programs, in India
Street Kids, founded in Canada and based in Toronto and London,
partners with nongovernmental organizations to deliver business
guidance and health education as well as to act as an advocate
for young people ages ten to 20. The business portion of the
program is basic, says Warson, 32, but it teaches valuable
skills tailored to a child’s environment, for
instance, how to run a bread kiosk in Mumbai.
"For a little chapati store, maybe we get them a loan to equip
the store in the first place," she explains. "We teach them
that you have to go buy your ingredients, and, at the end of
the day, you have to save some of your profit because you have
to buy more ingredients."
Most of the young people in the program are illiterate, but
immediate formal education isn’t a practical
option — street kids have to make a living first, and
school remains a foreign idea to most of them. "This is a
practical and proven method of actually helping them," Warson
notes. "It’s a realistic solution instead of an
Street Kids traces its roots to the mid-1980s, when Peter
Dalglish, a Canadian relief worker, founded the organization
after he caught a gang of boys breaking into his car in Sudan.
Dalglish decided that trying to put the boys on the right track
would be more constructive than reporting them to the
authorities, so he helped them start a bicycle-courier business
in Khartoum. In 1988 he formally launched Street Kids
International. The program has since reached 2 million children
in 60 countries.
The U.K. branch was started in 2007 to help fulfill the
overwhelming demand for the group’s programs. U.K.
chairman Richard Street recruited Warson for her investment
smarts and networking abilities. "She’s highly
intelligent and has a strong wish to put something back into
society," he says.
Warson, who worked in equity research at J.P. Morgan Securities
before she began her stint at Perry and is on the finance
committee of Street Kids U.K., says she was drawn to the
organization because it is results-driven: "Being an investor,
I am very attracted to charities where you can quantify and
show the returns that you get on the money that is invested."
The pilot program in Mumbai aims to train 15 youth directors
and launch 60 businesses. In Ethiopia, the goal is even bigger
— to establish 650 start-ups and to involve more than
1,000 young people.
Helping these largely unsupervised children, teenagers and
young adults improve their lives by fostering their business
and social skills appeals to Warson, who is eager to grow
Street Kids U.K. and reach thousands more children trying to
make their way on big-city streets. She says a good part of the
allure is the fact that the program is innovative and that it
affects lives so directly.
"It’s entrepreneurial," Warson says. "And
it’s helping people help themselves."
For more information go to www.streetkids.org.