- Kimmie Weeks
Kimmie Weeks was born on
December 6, 1981in the West African Nation of Liberia. The youngest of several children, Kimmie Weeks grew up in Monrovia. In 1989, Kimmie's relatively normal life was shattered by the onset of the Liberian civil war which started in 1989 when he was nine years old. The war forced Kimmie to experience poverty, and extreme human suffering. He recalls observing the plight of other children who seemed to suffer more than he did. He recounts,
“all through the war, I saw children suffer worse than I. I watched children die, cut down by bullets or disease that in other parts of the world would be considered no longer a threat. I saw children in my country spend long days on the streets of the capital under the blazing African sun trying to sell goods for their families to survive, while thousands of others carried guns, fighting and killing one another. I saw the growing number ofyoung children barely in their teens who were becoming prostitutes. School for these any many others was a fantasy.” [Weeks, K: "Recollections of the Liberian Civil War", unpublished essay 2005]
During the war, Kimmie Weeks became so hungry and sick that he was declared dead and nearly buried alive..” [Miller, B: "A Youth Shall Lead Them", December 13, 1999] That same night, Kimmie vowed to dedicate the rest of his childhood and adult life to making the world a better place for children. By age 10 he had already set himself on a trail of goodwill. His first achievement came when he organized a group of local volunteers to clean communities littered by debris of war. That same year, he would volunteer in understaffed temporary hospitals, caring for sickly babies and children. “It was there that a child first died in my arms and I knew then and there what it felt like for a mother who lost her child,” [Weeks, K: "speech to Floriday Central University", 2000] he says when he recounts his experience. Three years later, Kimmie would serve as co-founder of Voice of the Future Inc. (VOF), Liberia’s first child rights advocacy and humanitarian organization, run by young people his age.
(UNICEF). VOF provided informal health care and education to children across Liberia through a network of more than 4,000 volunteers..” [The Amherst Story Project: "Kimmie Weeks' Story", 2005]
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.” [Richardson, Emily: "Amherst College graduate Kimmie Weeks wins Brick Award", 2007]
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/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.
Prosecution and flight into exile
In December 1998, Kimmie investigated and published a report on the training of children by the Liberian military. As a result, several attempts were made to assassinate him..” [US State Department: "1999 Report on Human Rights Practices", 1999] Shantha Bloeman, a media consultant for UNICEF notes: "he always knew that he was risking his life for being so outspoken, but he really believes young people can make a difference and have a responsibility to do so." [Miller, B: "A Youth Shall Lead Them", The News Journal Dec. 13, 1999] Fearing for his personal safety, Kimmie Weeks fled Liberia in early 1999 and has since been granted political asylum in the
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 Schoolin Newark, Delaware. He then enrolled at Northfield Mount Hermon Schoolin Northfield, MA where he completed a post graduate program. In 2001, Weeks enrolled at Amherst Collegein MA and received a BA in Political Science and History in 2005. [www.kimmieweeks.com: "Kimmie Weeks biography", 2007.]
While at Amherst College, Weeks founded
Youth Action International. The organization aims to raise awareness and provide an outlet for young people in the United States to engage in humanitarian work abroad. Youth Action International currently works in six post-war African countries providing humanitarian services to thousands of people...” [Youth Action International: "About Us section", www.youthactioninternational.org] Kimmie currently serves as the organization's Executive Director while also working on his Masters at the University of Pennsylvania.
Recognition and awards
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 during programs marking Liberia's 160th Anniversary in Grand Bassa County, Liberia. [http://www.liberianobserver.com/news/fullstory.php/aid/7828/Liberia's_Youth_Key__to_National_Renewal.html: "Liberian youth key the national renewal, says Kimmie Weeks", 2007] 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 speechwhich was hailed by local newspapers as "one of the most powerful and moving speeches in Liberian history" can be listened to online at: [http://www.emansion.gov.lr/play_media.php?media=34 Executive Mansion audio]
Photos from the event are online at: [http://amherst.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2014270&l=2d0aa&id=4000571]
In 2007, Kimmie's photo and bio appeared on 20 million bags of Doritos...” [Brown, Robin: "Young activist ot be on snack bags", News Journal News paper 2007] He is the subject of a major photo exhibit, the book Peace in our Lifetime, and many smaller publications.
Kimmie Weeks currently resides in Philadelphia.
* [http://www.kimmieweeks.com/ Kimmie Weeks official website]
* [http://www.youtube.com/user/weeks4kids Youth Action International Youtube channel]
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