Founded in 1993, BAMA Kids, Inc. (Better Activities Make All-Around Kids) began with a coalition for youth development which was formed to address the needs of low-resource youth in Camden, Wilcox County, Ala. after a 19-year-old African American male was shot and killed by a local store owner. This killing mobilized the community to better support its youth. Over 28 years, BAMA Kids, Inc. has evolved into a comprehensive youth development organization and served thousands of young people. 

The organization’s goals are to: 

  • Provide life skills that will lead to pro-social behavior
  • To provide academic support to prevent dropouts and delinquent behavior
  • To provide enrichment activities to enhance the life experiences of the population served
  • To ensure that parents have the skills to help their children survive and thrive

Executive Director Sheryl Threadgill-Matthews shares more about BAMA Kids, Inc. in this Q&A. 

Q: Children living in rural communities have limited access to educational and developmental opportunities compared to their urban counterparts. How is BAMA Kids addressing this problem?

BAMA Kids, Inc. feels that every child deserves the same opportunities to grow and develop. In fact, that is the mantra of the program. BAMA Kids, Inc. is fully committed to exposing youth to diverse opportunities; beginning with vocabulary-building, field trips, extensive cultural arts, leadership development, African American history, and civic engagement activities. BAMA Kids, Inc. has developed strong partnerships and a network that contributes to a myriad of opportunities. For example, Zara Aina, a volunteer group of Broadway actors travel from New York to conduct drama and music sessions with BAMA Kids, Inc. There is always a huge production at the end. 

There are no YMCAs or Boys & Girls Clubs in Wilcox County. We realize that lack of resources makes it critical that a community-based organization, such as BAMA Kids, Inc. has a strong presence in this community.

Q: Wilcox County has importance as a cultural epicenter in America’s civil rights history. How are you leveraging your location to help youth?

Youth in BAMA Kids, Inc. are immersed in the history of local as well as national civil rights history.  Participants in BAMA Kids, Inc. have studied local civil rights icons and performed skits on their lives; they have made videos on civil rights history. They have also interviewed Wilcox County African American History-makers and given oral reports on them.

Q: What have been some of your successes, as well as challenges?

We have served thousands of youth, making a positive impact on their lives and seeing them grow into productive adults. Other successes include developing numerous resources for families and children in this area and building relationships across racial lines. As for challenges, our present site is aging so we need a suitable physical location. There is also concern about sustaining the program. Another challenge is working with parents and children who are so deprived, and helping them gain some hope.

Q: What do you want donors to know if they’re interested in funding in rural areas?

Rural areas are often overlooked when it comes to development and funding, however, those of us who are struggling to provide programming in the rural community have the ability to do a lot with a little. There are so many needs and funding in rural areas can make a huge impact. 

It’s almost like working with the children in BAMA Kids, Inc. Their needs are so great, that every day we can teach them something. The needs are so great in the rural area, that every day, something can be done to help.