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Kimmie Weeks

Kimmie Weeks

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Kimmie Weeks is an internationally acclaimed human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 activist. He was born on December 6, 1981 in Monrovia
Monrovia is the capital city of the West African nation of Liberia. Located on the Atlantic Coast at Cape Mesurado, it lies geographically within Montserrado County, but is administered separately...

, Liberia
Liberia , officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Sierra Leone on the west, Guinea on the north and Côte d'Ivoire on the east. Liberia's coastline is composed of mostly mangrove forests while the more sparsely populated inland consists of forests that open...


Early years

In 1991, Kimmie Weeks experienced the First Liberian Civil War first hand. He and his mother, Estina Ntow, were forced to leave their home and marched with many other displaced Liberians to a refugee camp set up in university buildings. A classroom filled to capacity with 30 people became Kimmie’s home. He was only 9 years old at the time. While in the camp, Kimmie became deathly ill - dehydrated due to cholera, he also contracted chicken pox and yellow jaundice. He saw no doctor, no nurse and was administered no medicine except for a few herbs. When other refugees sharing the classroom with Kimmie and his mother could no longer find a pulse in Kimmie, it was decided, over his mother’s objections, that he had died. He was thrown still alive onto one of many piles of dead bodies in the refugee camp. Kimmie’s mother refused to accept that he was dead. She searched until she found his body and resuscitate him, beating on his chest and shaking him until he regained consciousness. That same night, Kimmie vowed to dedicate the rest of his childhood and adult life to making the world a better place for children.

In 1998, the Liberian government of Charles Taylor made several attempts to assassinate Weeks because of a report he issued on the Liberian government’s involvement in the training of child soldiers.

Fearing for his safety, Kimmie went into hiding for more than three weeks before crossing over into neighboring Ivory Coast under an assumed name and disguised as a traditional dancer. Only seventeen years old when he fled his country, Kimmie was granted political asylum in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...


Initial projects

Kimmie Weeks co-founded Voice of the Future Inc. (VOF) in 1994 along with Richlieu Allison. The organization set its mission to work as an advocacy organization for the rights of children in Liberia. Over the years, it developed close connections with the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 and worked as an implementing partner for the United Nations Children's Fund
United Nations Children's Fund
United Nations Children's Fund was created by the United Nations General Assembly on December 11, 1946, to provide emergency food and healthcare to children in countries that had been devastated by World War II...

 (UNICEF). VOF provided informal health care and education to children across Liberia through a network of more than 4,000 volunteers..”

In 1996 Kimmie, now 15, founded and chaired the Children’s Disarmament Campaign. With support from UNICEF, the campaign lobbied a deadline for the disarmament of child soldiers, meeting warring faction, political, spiritual leaders and heads of civic societies to set a date for the disarmament of child soldiers. Several marches, indoor programs and publicity campaigns were also held to attract attention to the cause.

In 1997, with the holding of general disarmament in Liberia, Kimmie established Liberia’s first children’s information service, The Children’s Bureau of Information, which worked alongside Search for Common Ground
Search for Common Ground
Search for Common Ground is an international non-profit organization operating in nearly 30 countries whose mission is to transform the way the world deals with conflict – away from adversarial approaches toward cooperative solutions. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with the majority of...

/Talking Drum Studio to produce radio programs aimed at reintegrating child soldiers into the community. The 15-minute weekly broadcasts are aired on 3 local radio stations.

Life in the United States

Once he arrived in the United States, Kimmie Weeks enrolled and completed his final year of high school at Glasgow High School
Glasgow High School (Delaware)
Glasgow High School is one of the three public high schools belonging to Christiana School District, and is located in Newark, Delaware...

 in Newark
Newark, Delaware
Newark is an American city in New Castle County, Delaware, west-southwest of Wilmington. According to the 2010 Census, the population of the city is 31,454. Newark is the home of the University of Delaware.- History :...

, Delaware
Delaware is a U.S. state located on the Atlantic Coast in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It is bordered to the south and west by Maryland, and to the north by Pennsylvania...

. He then enrolled at Northfield Mount Hermon School in Northfield
Northfield, Massachusetts
Northfield is a town in Franklin County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 2,951 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area...

, MA
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 where he completed a post graduate program. In 2001, Weeks enrolled at Amherst College
Amherst College
Amherst College is a private liberal arts college located in Amherst, Massachusetts, United States. Amherst is an exclusively undergraduate four-year institution and enrolled 1,744 students in the fall of 2009...

 in Massachusetts and received a BA in Political Science and History in 2005.

While at Amherst College, Weeks founded Youth Action International
Youth Action International
Youth Action International Youth Action International, or YAI, is an international nonprofit working to rebuild war-torn African communities, founded by youth activist Kimmie Weeks, a survivor of the Liberian Civil War. The organization establishes safe and healthy environments for women and their...

. The organization aims to raise awareness and provide an outlet for young people in the United States to engage in humanitarian work abroad. Kimmie currently serves as the organization's Executive Director while also working on his Masters at the University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States,Penn is the fourth-oldest using the founding dates claimed by each institution...


Recognition and awards

Kimmie Weeks remains a vocal advocate for children's rights around the world. His annual speaking tour reaches more than 40,000 people. He has also been selected for many awards including the MLK Peace Medal, the 1998 Goodwill Games Medal for heroism in the face of adversity, and the 2007 Golden Brick Award.

On July 26, 2007, the Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Republic of Liberia, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, bestowed Liberia's highest honor on Weeks for "sacrificial and dedicated services to the people of Liberia." The President formally decorated Kimmie Weeks as Knight Grand Commander in the Humane Order of African Redemption
Liberian Humane Order of African Redemption
Liberian Humane Order of African Redemption was founded on January 13, 1879 during the presidency of Anthony W. Gardiner. It is awarded for humanitarian work in Liberia, for acts supporting and assisting the Liberian nation and to individuals who have played a prominent role in the emancipation of...

 during programs marking Liberia's 160th Anniversary in Grand Bassa County
Grand Bassa County
Grand Bassa is a county in the west-central portion of the West African nation of Liberia. One of 15 counties that comprise the first-level of administrative division in the nation, it has eight districts. Buchanan serves as the capital with the area of the county measuring...

, Liberia. Kimmie Weeks becomes one of the youngest recipients of Liberia's highest honor.

In a special proclamation marking the conferral of the distinction, President Sirleaf wrote:

"Now therefore, in recognition of the outstanding success you have so laudably achieved so far in your career, and for the pride you bring to all Liberians, I, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, by virtue of the power vested in me as Grand Master of the Order of Distinction of the Republic of Liberia do hereby admit you, Kimmie L. Weeks into the HUMANE ORDER OF AFRICAN REDEMPTION with the grade of KNIGHT GRAND COMMANDER."

By Presidential request, Kimmie Weeks also served as National Orator for programs marking Liberia's Independence Day Celebration. He spoke on the topic: Liberia at 160: Reclaiming the Future. The thirty minute speech
which was hailed by local newspapers as "one of the most powerful and moving speeches in Liberian history" can be listened to online at: Executive Mansion audio
In 2007, Kimmie's photo and bio appeared on 20 million bags of Doritos. He is the subject of a major photo exhibit, the book Peace in our Lifetime, and many smaller publications.

In 2008 and 2009, Kimmie Weeks received the Liberia National Excellence Award, and the Wangari Mathai Global Citizenship Award.

In 2011, Amherst College confered an honorary doctorate degree on Kimmie Weeks. He became the youngest person in the school's history to receive an honorary degree.


Kimmie Weeks currently serves as Executive Director of Youth Action International
Youth Action International
Youth Action International Youth Action International, or YAI, is an international nonprofit working to rebuild war-torn African communities, founded by youth activist Kimmie Weeks, a survivor of the Liberian Civil War. The organization establishes safe and healthy environments for women and their...

. The organization provides education, health care and economic empowerment for children and youth in post war African countries. Youth Action International has impacted more than 150,000 lives since 2005. Kimmie Weeks is also a member of the World Economic Forum
World Economic Forum
The World Economic Forum is a Swiss non-profit foundation, based in Cologny, Geneva, best known for its annual meeting in Davos, a mountain resort in Graubünden, in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland....

's Global Agenda Council and a member of the Young Global Leaders Program.

See also

  • Susan Skog Author of Peace in our Lifetime
  • Janet Wilson Author of One Peace

External links