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GO KIDS Articles

Ex-Philly mayor says mentors give lifelines

Vincent T. Davis, Staff Writer
San Antonio-Express News
Web Posted: 09/26/2007 11:07 PM CDT

Wilson Goode, former two-time mayor of Philadelphia, spoke to members of the justice community Wednesday about helping children of incarcerated parents break the chain of family members ending up in prison.

Goode is a senior advisor of Amachi, a secular and faith-based mentoring program, which has partnered with Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America to match children of prisoners with adult mentors.

"Amachi," a Nigerian Ibo word, means "Who knows but what God has brought us through this child."

There are 273 programs in 48 states modeled after the Amachi organization.

Goode presented his 30-minute message at the Cadillac Bar, weaving parables, Bible tales and statistics in his call to stop 70 percent of an estimated 7.3 million children of incarcerated parents from following in their footsteps.

"They're all seeds in God's hands," Goode said. "Some are in fertile soil, some are in swamps. The challenge is to make sure they all land in fertile soil."

Goode, 69, said Amachi follows the model of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of one adult mentor to one child. These children are less likely to use drugs and more likely to improve attendance at school and graduate, he said. He credited the program with helping 90 percent of the children forge better relationships.

An ordained Baptist minister, Goode said he's an example of a child who grew up with an imprisoned parent and made good with the help of mentors. His mother moved the family from the South to Philadelphia when he was 14 and his father was in prison.

Goode's pastor and the pastor's wife became his Big Brother and Big Sister, encouraging him to go to college. He credited their influence for helping him become mayor of the nation's fourth-largest city.

He told the crowd why he remembers the Masai tribe from Kenya. Known for being fierce protectors, he recalled their unique greeting, "How are the children?"

He encouraged the crowd to take up the cause so "when someone asks how are the children, we can say the children are well."