Hundreds of Kids Company supporters marched across Westminster Bridge and towards 10 Downing Street on Friday in protest against the closure of the charity.
"Save Kids Company, see the child," they chanted as they walked past Parliament Square. "Don't close our charity."
The message was clear: The children who benefited from the charity's activities, education, and financial support would be the ones hit hardest by the closure.
"I'm on the training course, they provide a service that is second to none," Mandy from southwest London told BuzzFeed News. "I'm here to support the staff. It's time the government step up."
Camila Batmanghelidjh, the founder and CEO of Kids Company, announced on Wednesday that the charity would be shut down. The decision to close came after the central government said it is reclaiming a £3 million grant paid to the charity because the funds were not allegedly used for the right purpose.
Last week, BuzzFeed News and BBC Newsnight first reported that the Metropolitan police's complex case team of the sexual offences, exploitation and child abuse command was investigating the charity after receiving testimony from witnesses.
Mandy was one of the many people who had been trained by, or worked for, Kids Company at the protests. Staff members wore Kids Company-branded T-shirts. They told people that the protest wasn't organised for them, but for the children.
"We keep shouting because of the amount of people that will be stranded," said Tom, who worked for Kids Company. "Many of us didn't have the time to say goodbye to the kids we worked with every day. No one is talking about the support that we give. They're more concerned with Camila. We haven't had a chance to have our voices heard."
The majority of protesters at the demonstration said they were not concerned about the politics of the charity. Instead, they said they were worried that the crucial day-to-day support the Kids Company provided would now be stopped.
"We want them to give the charity a second chance," Kemi from Hackney said as she stood with friends and family opposite 10 Downing Street. "No other charity in this country cares for children day-to-day like this one.
"I'm seriously worried. I've been crying because I don't know what to do and I don't know what's next. I'm from Nigeria – the charity and staff are the only family I know."
Crowd gathered outside No. 10 was large. The chant, "Save Kids Company, see the child," continued to echo. Children perched on walls as their mothers spoke out.
"My heart bleeds," one mother shouted. "We need people to know it's the best charity for families. I'm not doing for myself, I'm doing this for the children. There are so many facilities they need. They can't go on holidays. I'm tired, my heart is bleeding.
"You saved the banks. Why are you not saving the children?"
Many of the families at the protest spoke about the necessity of the Tesco food vouchers they were given on a weekly basis. Kenisha and her 4-year-old son, Jevaun, had been clients of a Kids Company centre in Camberwell since 2011. She said that the £10 voucher she was provided with each week provided milk for her son. She said that she is unsure of what they'll do next.
Ola and Mayowa, both aged 8, looked on as their mothers campaigned. They wore Kids Company T-shirts and had "KC" and hearts painted in pink on their faces.
"They helped my mum, they gave her vouchers, otherwise my mum wouldn't have anything to buy," Ola said when asked how Kids Company had helped them.
The children chased each other as protesters and reporters dodged around them.
"When a large crowd of mostly cameramen swarmed around Batmanghelidjh as she arrived to show her support for the demonstration, Ola pointed at my camera and asked, "can I use that and join them?"
When Batmanghelidjh left, the media scrum died down and the protest dispersed. Some families left to go home, while others stayed, clinging to their signs.
Two mothers, Kemi and Titi, told BuzzFeed News that not only had their children benefited from the charity, but they had personally too.
"When I first came here in 2012, I was homeless. No friends. I had no one to help me," Kemi said. "When social services didn't help us, someone told us to go to Kids Company. They have supported me financially, gave me and my daughter shoes, food, and when my daughter needed a computer to do her school assignments, they paid for one.
"They gave my daughter a jacket in winter. Social services are doing nothing, charities like Kids Company are. Social services did nothing, so it's up to the charities."
Titi lives in east London with her 11-year-old son, Michael. She said that the charity was different from the bigger charities in the UK because it had a more hands-on approach.
"Sometimes, when we would go there on fun days, they gave us hot meals," Michael said. "Once, when it was my birthday, they got me presents. The staff were very nice. We are going to miss the Christmas party. I am going to miss the staff."
In 2010, Titi received a letter from the Home Office saying they were going to deport her and her son.
"They tried to deport me, even though my son was born in the UK. I remember the day so well; it was just before Christmas, and it was raining. They took the key from my flat and made me homeless. They didn't care where we would sleep. I nearly killed myself."
Titi said that Kids Company paid for her legal fees and helped her and her son so they could stay in the country.
"They gave me hope. When I needed antidepressants, they helped. I'm not saying it's all the government's fault, but when they said they'd stop the money, who is going to help our kids?
"We've been told by Downing Street we'll no longer get the money because of the problems," she said, pointing to No. 10. "But tell me, are there no problems in there?"
Rossalyn Warren is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Rossalyn Warren at email@example.com.
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