All of YAI’s programs fall in one of three thematic areas: education, health, and economic empowerment. YAI works with community leaders, and community based groups to develop and implement programs to ensure that they are aligned with the most pressing needs of the community and that they can also be implemented in the most effective way.
The focus of YAI’s work in education is geared towards building a strong foundation for children at an early age. Executive Director Kimmie Weeks notes, “I know from first-hand experience that the foundation a child receives prior to entering grade school plays a critical role in the success of that child through the rest of their academic journey.”
YAI’s education initiatives focuses on helping to support the provision of a solid foundation for pupils in their early development stages. The organization recognizes that by giving children a good foundation they are able to excel and are contribute more significant to the rebuilding of their country.
In Addition to supporting early childhood education, YAI facilitates children’s ability to to be able to attend grade school by providing shoes for children in underserved communities. In many communities across Liberia and Sierra Leone where families live below the poverty line, the expense of purchasing a black pair of shoe to enable their kids to attend school is an expense that many families cannot afford.
Kimmie Weeks also tells the story of the challenges he faced as a child attending school in Liberia. “There was one pair of shoes that i had worn and repaired so often that one day even the shoe repair guy told me that my shoes were damaged beyond repair. I still had to wear it for many days without the sole because I had no other option.”
The program provides a pair of shoe to students in need. Thousands of students have benefited from this program every year.
Reflecting on his near death experience being in a refugee camp and nearly dying from cholera, malaria and yellow jaundice, Kimmie Weeks set health as the second thematic area that YAI would focus on.
Over the years, YAI’s primary focus on health care has been focused on providing support to community clinics and hospital as well as sensitizing on some of the primary health care issues facing young people in post war African nations. Utilizing a peer to peer approach, the organization has organized and implements unique awareness programs on the prevention of teenage pregnancy, and HIV/AIDs and sexually transmitted diseases.
In 2019, we shifted our focus to providing clean drinking water for communities. This became a target for the organization when we realized that hundreds of wells built by international organizations to serve at risk populations had simply fallen into disrepair leaving entire communities without access to safe drinking water.
Working in partnership with Waves4Water, and Water Charity, we have already delivered clean drinking water to thousands of people in various communities.
The mantra “teach a man to fish” has been the core guiding factor of YAI’s economic empowerment programs. This remains an area where the organization dedicates most of its resources to.
The provision of self-sustaining empowerment opportunities for young people in post war African nations has been something that YAI’s founder Kimmie Weeks has been passionate about. In one of his talks, Weeks notes that very often the young adult generation living in post war countries are easily written off because during the years of war, they lost the opportunity to keep up with regular classroom lessons and eventually too many years had passed for them to comfortably return to school. However, Weeks says these young people remain and untapped and extreme reservoir of talent that can still be tapped into. Says Weeks, “Yes, they’ve seen war and have lost years of their lives, but they are also filled with a deep burning survival flame that brought them through the worst nightmares. Give them a real opportunity to forge ahead and they will become the backbone of any postwar nation.”
YAI’s economic empowerment programs now focus on tapping into the immense potential of agriculture to break millions out of extreme poverty. Through various training programs, agriculture projects and microloan schemes, YAI is working to provide young people the opportunity to enroll in one of several skills training programs where they are given the gift and opportunity to learn a lifelong skill that can be used to earn an income.