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Kimmie L. Weeks, 2005
Doctor of Humane Letters
At age 29, Kimmie Weeks has already spent more than half of his lifetime working to alleviate poverty and suffering—especially for young people.
As a child, Weeks witnessed the horrors of civil war in his native Liberia. Believing that he had died of cholera, his neighbors nearly threw his malnourished body into a mass grave; only after his distraught mother beat on his chest did he regain consciousness. Vowing thereafter that he would help make the world a better place for children, 10-year-old Weeks organized a community cleanup crew and began volunteering in local hospitals. Just a few years later, he co-founded Voice of the Future Inc., Liberia’s first child rights advocacy organization, followed by The Children’s Disarmament Campaign and the Children’s Bureau of Information, to address the exploitation of thousands of the nation’s children for military combat. A report that Weeks published on this subject in 1998 put him in imminent danger of assassination by the government of Charles Taylor; in 1999, at age 17, Weeks fled Liberia and found asylum in the United States.
He continued his activism at Amherst College, where he wrote a thesis on child combatants in Germany, Iran, Liberia and the U.S. A discussion with friends in South Dormitory prompted him to launch, with Sarah Godwin ’05, Youth Action International in 2002. The nonprofit organization that began with student fundraisers at Amherst soon had chapters at other schools and now improves the lives of more than 100,000 young people in postwar nations including Liberia, Uganda and Sierra Leone through educational and recreational programs, vocational training, small business development, health care services, agricultural projects and the empowerment of women and girls.
Weeks holds a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. In 2007, he achieved his country’s highest honor when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf named him a Knight Grand Commander in Liberia’s Humane Order of African Redemption, and he served as national orator when Liberia celebrated the 160th anniversary of its independence. Weeks has also served on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council and received a Golden Brick Award, a Wangari Mathai Award for Global Citizenship and an Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellowship, among other awards.
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