Children raising hands at a camp put on by Bridge Kids International

Children dance during Bridge Kids International’s 7 Generations African Heritage Culture Camp in Louisville. Their shirts say, “I Am a Future Ancestor.” | Courtesy of BKI

A local branch of a global organization that taps into the power of African heritage and culture to help foster the well-being and development of young people is among the Louisville Health Equity Fund’s 2019 grant winners.

Bridge Kids International, also known as BKI, is one of four nonprofits that each will get a $20,000 grant from the fund, according to a Tuesday announcement. Recipients also get the chance to receive a second $20,000 grant in 2020.

Rounding out the list of 2019 winners are the La Casita Center, which does education, empowerment and wellness activities to help the Latino community; 2Not1 Fatherhood and Families, which works to keep fathers involved with their families; and the Play Cousin Collective, a multigenerational collective that helps parents build a support network and improve their communities so kids can live, play and prosper.

These groups are “creating new practices and influencing policies to build a better world for their families and communities,” noted Community Foundation of Louisville President and CEO Susan Barry in a news release.  “… The Health Equity Fund is a great example of a funding partnership intentionally supporting organizations at the grassroots level, where innovation and community knowledge make real change.”

Screenshot from Bridge Kids International

Screenshot Bridge Kids International

BKI will use the Health Equity Fund grant to help cover administrative costs and put on specific events, including a summit on the development of young people of African heritage, said Stacy Bailey-Ndiaye, the group’s executive director.

The gathering will be for people “concerned about the social/emotional development of kids of African descent” as well as their education, health and others factors that “go into them developing into a healthy, whole, productive member of society,” she said. “We’re looking at their cultural development as well. … Our theme for our work is ‘Culture is the Cure.'”

The nonprofit, which links African Americans, Africans and people from other parts of the African diaspora, such as the Caribbean, also has a project that examines various cultural practices and traditions to see if they can be adapted to address modern-day problems.

Right now, BKI is working to build the Congolese-inspired Kizazi Fund, a community wealth building strategy for families whose monetary contributions will be invested collectively over time so that their children can use it to attend college, start a business or make a down payment on a home upon reaching adulthood.

“We’re using the money for some of the back-end work in development of that,” Bailey-Ndiaye said.

The Health Equity Fund is designed to support initiatives that allow organizations to better address obstacles to health equity. It was started with proceeds from Louisville’s win of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health prize. Money from the Community Foundation of Louisville, the Humana Foundation, Metro United Way and the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence also has helped build the fund.

Grant winners, who were chosen through a comprehensive application and review process, will get training and support from the Center for Healthy Equity, which is part of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness.