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Youth Action International is a non-governmental organization that uses grassroots techniques to develop and implement programs that help alleviate the suffering of children affected by war or living in difficult circumstances, empower them to reach their full potential, and break cycles of violence and poverty.

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Empowering Africa

Read the YAI 2010-2012 Annual Report: Empowering Africa (pdf)

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Celebrity supporters

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf — President of Liberia

President Sirleaf recently presented Kimmie Weeks Liberia’s highest award. She named him Knight Grand Commander in the Humane Order of African Redemption for “sacrificial services to the wellbeing of the people of the Republic of Liberia.”

John Littlefield — Extreme Makeover Home Edition

John Littlefield is a strong supporter of Youth Action International and the Greener Diamond. Best known for his role on the TV show Extreme Makeover Home Edition, Littlefield has also worked on many TV projects including Law & Order, Another World is Possible, and the West Wing. In 2009, Littlefield visited and toured YAI’s projects in West Africa. He continues to be a strong supporter of the organization.

Petra Nemcova — Supermodel & Humanitarian

Petra Němcová (born June 24, 1979 in Karviná (now Czech Republic); pronounced Nyemtzovah) is a fashion supermodel. She recently wrote of Kimmie Weeks & Youth Action International:“There are not that many great leaders as Kimmie. He left me speechless and so inspired, because of his strength to overcome major challenges and do such incredible work which is changing so many lives! I wish that there would be more people doing such an amazing work like Kimmie.”

Wyclef Jean — Musician & Humanitarian

Wyclef Jean is a Grammy Award-winning and Golden Globe-nominated Haitian-American rapper, guitarist, producer, and member of the hip hop trio The Fugees. Jean has been active in his support of his native country and created the foundation Yéle Haïti to provide humanitarian aid and assistance to Haïti. He describes Yéle as a non-political organization intended to empower the people of Haïti and the Haïtian diaspora to rebuild their nation.

Renee Wilson — Actress, Singer, Songwriter

Renee Wilson is an acclaimed actress and musician. She was cast as a singer in Tim Bakers stage musical of Dreamgirls. She went on to portrayed General Stanley’s ward in Michael Howard’s stage musical production of the Pirates of Penzance.While her talent has garnered her roles in several stage productions, Renee’ made her television debut in the season finale episode “New York Unbound” on the sitcom Girlfriends. However, perhaps her most recognizable role is that of Raylette Pat Lyle in acclaimed director Taylor Hackford’s Academy Award winning film Ray, starring Regina King and Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx.

M.I.A. — Musician

Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam is a vocalist, songwriter, composer, record producer and visual artist of Sri Lankan Tamil origin. She is best known by her stage name, M.I.A.. Her music style contains elements of grime, hip-hop, ragga, dancehall, electro, and baile funk. In 2005, her first album, Arular, was nominated for the Mercury Prize. In 2007, her second album, Kala, was voted Mixmag’s Album of the Month in the magazine’s September issue. Maya visited Liberia in December 2006 to meet war-affected people there including ex-child soldiers and film a documentary on the post war situation in the country with activist Kimmie Weeks.

Korto Momolu — Fashion Designer

Korto Momulu is a Liberian fashion designer currently residing in Little Rock, Arkansas. She is best known for her achievements on Bravo’s Project Runway Season 5, where she placed second in the competition and was awarded the coveted title of “Fan Favorite”. Korto has gone on to create a name for herself in the fashion industry with designs that are created for real women and blend modern fashion with African details inspired by her Liberian heritage. Her designs have been featured in Essence magazine, Marie-Claire magazine, and InStyle online. Of Kimmie Weeks, she said: “It’s amazing when someone goes through the hell stages of life, rises up from it and instead of self-pity, proclaims self-determination. The determination to help the ones who are the most helpless, our children. It is an honor to support not just a fellow Liberian, but in my opinion, one of our generations greatest humanitarians. The Kimmie Weeks movement will be going long after he is gone, but while he is here, I vow to contribute and do my part to stop the suffering of our children one country at a time. Please know you have my support always.”

Esther Chae — Actress, Writer, Academic

Esther Chae is an international award-winning actor/writer and academic. A professionally-trained actor of Yale School of Drama, her solo act, “So the Arrow Flies” was featured at the prestigious TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Conference. She has appeared on television programs including NCIS, Law and Order, West Wing and ER, as well as in films and on multiple theatre stages.

YAI BLOGS more news

Posted by Kimmie, 2/1/12

Youth Action International High School Youth Leader of the Year 2011

Congratulations to Amanda Hurlbut, a 12th grade student, who since 2009, has led Kids with Sole, in coordination with YAI to send 3000 pairs of sneakers to children in Liberia.

Posted by Kimmie, 11/6/11

My Liberian internship

It is a year since I began my internship at Youth Action International and what I thought would be an easy task is very difficult. I do not know where to start in talking about my experiences over the last one year. To save myself from overworking my young brain trying to think about my experiences, I will use this medium to extend my gratitude to Kimmie and the Youth Action International family for affording me the opportunity to grow and develop in a more responsible leader.

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Posted by Kimmie, 10/6/09

Surrounded by Angels

estherI’ve been thinking about what to write since I came back from Liberia.  I am from Spain and English is my fourth language – I also speak Spanish, Italian, and Catalan.  So as you can imagine, it took me forever to put all my thoughts in order in English.

My name is Esther Rodriguez-Brown. My husband, Michael, and I are the founders of The Embracing Project, a non profit organization we created to educate inner city youth about the similarities between genocide and gang activity.  One purpose of this journey is to expose inner city youth to the experiences of children soldiers in different parts of the world and then to create a pen-pal relationship between both groups.

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Posted by Lauren, 10/6/08

Invite Kimmie Weeks to speak.


Every year, Kimmie Weeks embarks on a nationwide speaking tour to motivate young people to become pioneers of change. To date, thousands of students have heard his message and many of them have gone on to start their own humanitarian organizations or have joined other change-making programs.

Contact Natsumi Ajiki: natsumi @ peaceforkids.org

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Posted by Cody, 10/4/08

A snap of Africa

cody-hall.jpg“What have I gotten myself into?”

This is a question that has come up many times on my journey to Africa.

I suppose to clarify, and so as not to sound like a cynic, I should explain a little bit about myself.  I’ve been a photographer for two and a half years now.  When I first picked up a camera the only thought that went through my head was “Awesome, now I have a big chunk of metal, plastic and glass that will allow me to take clearer photos and I’ll soon be rich and famous as a result of having this camera!”

This was not the case as I am neither rich, nor famous (side from my own delusions of grandeur.)   Anyways all of that is beside the point.  If someone had told me the day that I picked up that camera that it would eventually lead me to post war West Africa, I would have laughed in their faces.  Not because traveling to West Africa is a crazy idea, but simply because I did not see myself ever getting past the stage of “hobbyist” photography.

And yet, here I sit, in Sierra Leone, thousands of miles from home (6168 miles approximately) volunteering as the photographer for Youth Action International.

Now in regards to Africa, particularly Sierra Leone and Liberia, I don’t think that anything could have really prepared me for what I would experience here.   This is including Kimmie’s ‘worst case scenario’ description of Liberia.

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Posted by Lauren, 9/23/08

Notes from Africa. by Lauren Emerson


I wish I had been more diligent about documenting my experiences and reactions in Liberia, but I seemed to always put off the act of writing.  I always told myself I was too tired or busy, but the truth is that I had a very difficult time reflecting on the barrage of experiences at the time. Throughout my time in Africa, I realized that I did not once shed a tear.  It was only once I was on the plane from Accra to New York, on my way back to my privileged and comfortable life, that I was able to absorb the memories and the pictures that I was taking with me. As I looked through the pictures I had taken on my camera, I cried for a half an hour straight. I cried thinking about the hopeful faces on the small children at Temas Orphanage that I was leaving. I cried for young people of Grand Bassa County who do not have the opportunity to go to school.  I cried because I realized that my life would be changed forever and I cried because I felt an overwhelming sense of helplessness. 

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Posted by memory, 5/9/08

Is Kony really interested in peace?


A cross-section of observers, traditional and religious leaders, local and international media stormed Ri-Kwangba last week to witness the historical moment were Joseph Kony, the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) leader was supposed to sign the final peace agreement. The rest of the world held its breath to witness the day that northern Uganda would finally get to normalcy after 20 years of conflict between the Government of Uganda and the LRA rebels.

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Posted by memory, 4/29/08

Journey to Uganda – by Heehwa Choi


“Aren’t you nervous?” my dear friend carefully asked me when I told her that I’d be visiting Uganda. That’s how my parents reacted at first. I told myself it is not because Uganda is part of Africa that they are worried for my travel. Traveling to new places is always uncertain to some extent. However, I couldn’t deny that part of me was more worried than usual. What would I see? How would I feel? What should I expect? Am I mature enough? Above all, the question was ‘why would I want to go visit Africa’? I cannot tell Uganda story leaving out the influence of Kimmie and Youth Action International. I actually met Kimmie at Northfield Mount Hermon High School where Kimmie graduated from.  

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Posted by memory, 4/19/08

Peace in Uganda?


The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), an Acholi-based opposition group led by Joseph Kony has been fighting first against president Museveni’s government, and currently against other Acholi peoples. The Acholi are an ethnic group who live in Northern Uganda. Though Kony, leader of the LRA reportedly believes he has been chosen by God to overthrow president Museveni and establish a government based on the Ten Commandments, and a purified Acholi race, the LRA has yet to explain its goals or put forth any sort of political agenda.
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Posted by Abigail, 9/3/07

Death in Uganda

I wasn’t promised an African sunset. When Kimmie Weeks invited me on a humanitarian mission through post-conflict countries, what came to mind were the stunning landscape pictures my friends had brought back from the ranch in Kenya. It was how I had envisioned this beautiful continent. Streaks of red and orange, firing up the night sky of deep blue and purple: a kaleidoscope of color. Instead, I found another kind of sunset. I found the African people wasting away, dying brutal, horrific deaths at the hands of war, disease, and poverty. I found the sun setting on their lives. Not fading into the night with brilliant lights, but being shredded into a nonexistence wracked with pain and suffering. Continue reading continue