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The People Behind the Cause

David Bubis, President/CEO
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio

Amachi Program: Mentoring At-Risk Children

The problem of crime is usually perceived as involving two parties, the victim and the perpetrator. What’s often missing from this equation is the profound impact criminal acts have on invisible victims: the children of those incarcerated for committing criminal acts. Approximately 70% of the children of incarcerated parents end up in jail or prison themselves. There is a crying need for a focused effort to break this destructive cycle.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio has partnered with local faith-based organizations to provide an alternate path for these innocent young people who often bear the stigma of their parent’s crime and are statistically more likely to be incarcerated as adults.

David Bubis, President and CEO of Central Ohio’s Big Brothers Big Sisters organization places a spotlight on their mentorship program for children of incarcerated parents. Amachi is a West African word that means, “Who knows what God has brought us through this child?" The volunteer mentoring program has adopted this powerful word and is known simply as Amachi.

The partnership of inner-city congregations is an important factor in the success of Amachi. Many faith-based organizations have a unique attachment to the community and are in a position to directly deal with significant challenges facing at-risk youngsters. Amachi strives to fulfill a child’s need for consistent and caring adults in their lives.

An early model for the Amachi program, developed by two-time former mayor Dr. Wilson Goode, demonstrated positive results in Philadelphia. Cities in central Ohio expect similar benefits for an estimated 3,000 children with a current or former incarcerated parent. These benefits include: lower drug and alcohol abuse, higher self-esteem, improved school attendance, and lower incidences of violent behavior.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded a $257,000 grant to Amachi Big Brothers Big Sisters program in central Ohio. Additional financial support comes from the U.S. Department of Justice, The Harry C. Moores Foundation, The Columbus Foundation, LimitedBrands and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. David Bubis, gives us an inside look at Amachi, a powerful force for improving the outlook of at-risk youths.

How did you become involved with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Central Ohio?

I heard about the long-standing Executive Director, Dave Schirner, who has been involved with BBBS of Central Ohio for 32 years, wanting to step down and take on the task of being the Director of our year-round Camp. Big Brothers Big Sisters has such a top-drawer reputation, it really sold itself. I decided it was time for a change in my career, so I threw my hat into the ring during their national search. I was very fortunate to have been selected to lead this very fine organization into the future.

What events led to Amachi, the current program serving children with incarcerated parents?

Reggie and Alphonso

Reverend Dr. Wilson Goode, two-time former mayor of Philadelphia really came up with the concept. After his tenure in Philadelphia, he joined the Clinton administration's Department of Education. He became increasingly aware of the plight of children of incarcerated parents. Following his stint in Washington, he went back to Divinity School. His doctoral dissertation was about how the faith-based community is being under utilized in helping to tackle significant social problems. He then came up with the idea of recruiting volunteers from the faith based community to serve as Big Brothers and Big Sisters to children of incarcerated parents. He joined with Public/Private Ventures, a major force in linking public and private entities toward tackling major social issues, and then brought the idea to Big Brothers Big Sisters, which is headquartered nationally in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia had the first Amachi program about 3 years ago. Last year was the first year the model duplicated around the country; we are one of twelve pilot sites in the nation currently. The program, hopefully, will expand to other cities in the coming years.

Have the benefits of the Amachi program been demonstrated in the lives of individual young people?

Amachi is a very young program - it is too soon for a rigorous evaluation. However, early indications, and specifically, the duration of the Amachi matches suggest it is making a difference in the lives of children who are involved in mentoring relationships. We know from previous studies of our programs that children who are matched for a minimum of twelve months:

- Felt more confident about doing their school work
- Skipped fewer days of school
- Had higher grades, and
- Were less likely to start using drugs or alcohol.

In the Philadelphia Amachi program, we also surveyed the children's parents or caregivers after a year, to determine any improvements in the mentee's attitudes and behaviors. We found:

- 93% of mentors and 82% of the parents/caregivers reported that the child had shown improved self-confidence
- 61% and 60%, respectively, said the child had an improved "sense of the future."
- A majority of both mentors and parents/caregivers also reported that the child showed improved academic performance.

How has your involvement with the children of incarcerated parents challenged and rewarded you?

Seth and Kurt

It is very disturbing to meet these children one on one and know that if we did not intervene on their behalf that 70% of them will end up in jail. These are not bad kids, per se; they were just dealt a bad hand.

When we ask each child what they wish for, if they could have anything in the world, 9 times out of 10 they answer, “I wish my Dad (or Mom) got out of prison.” That is heart-breaking. While we can't affect that change, I am hopeful that we can help create a path for success for these kids.

How have partnerships with faith-based organizations helped further goals established by Amachi Big Brothers Big Sisters?

Well, obviously, they are supplying the volunteers for the program - so we wouldn't be able to do this without them. However, I think there is a deeper level of involvement in this program because of the commitment from the clergy - their input and "blessing" is invaluable to insure the success of Amachi.

What are your long-term goals for Amachi?

We would ultimately like to provide a mentor to every child of incarcerated parents in our area - about 3000. That is something that we may be able to accomplish with sufficient funding over the next 5 to 10 years.

-- DeWayne Lumpkin
Annie Van Bebber

Read More About:

For more information regarding the Amachi Programs in Ohio click here or call Adrienne Yates, Amachi Coordinator at (614) 839-2447. If you are interested in learning more or feel that your church, temple or mosque would be a good match for the Amachi Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Program in Ohio contact Adrienne.

Anyone outside of the Ohio area should contact their local Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter by visiting the national website www.bbbsa.org

Big Brothers Big Sisters Amachi would like to recognize a few of their partners:

  • Governor Bob Taft's Office of
    Faith Based Community Initiatives: Click Here
  • Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections: Click Here
  • The Mentoring Center of Central Ohio: Click Here
  • Community Connections for Ohio Offenders: Click Here
  • Prison Fellowship Ministries: Click Here

Do you know people like David Bubis?
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Giving People
Every cause should have an angel who has the vision and the persistence to help it reach its goal. Do you know somebody like this? Tell us about them. We're always looking for people to honor on this page. Just write us at...

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