Youth Action International, or YAI, is a global nonprofit working to rebuild war-torn African communities. The organization establishes safe and healthy environments for women and their children by providing for their core needs and developing new community infrastructure. YAI is run by a network of young international leaders who are defining a new approach to delivering humanitarian aid. By leveraging the use of local materials and employing local people, YAI maximizes the economic and social impact of programs which include building schools and playgrounds, as well as micro-lending.
YAI was started and inspired by acclaimed youth activist Kimmie Weeks, a survivor of the Liberian Civil War. At age nine, after nearly being buried alive as a result of disease, hunger and suffering, Weeks pledged to spend his life helping children. At age 16, Weeks successfully headed Liberia’s Children’s Disarmament Campaign, an effort to lobby the disarmament of approximately 20,000 Liberian child soldiers. Two years later, his work led Liberian President Charles Taylor and his government to attempt to have Weeks assassinated. As a result, Kimmie was forced to flee to the United States.
While in the U.S., Kimmie continues to grow his vision and invite other youth to partner in the mission. YAI focuses on post-war countries that have faced the worst situations of all - they are beyond the need of international emergency services, but not yet advanced enough to have a self-sustaining commercial economy. These countries face the daily realities of hunger, and a lack of basic needs such as clean water, safe schools, parks and medical care.
We inform young people in industrialized countries about the plight of the world’s children and channel their desire to create positive social change. We create tangible opportunities for young people to take action. Some of Youth Action International’s current projects include rebuilding playgrounds destroyed by the Liberian civil war, being involved in partnerships to establish the first center for war-affected women in Sierra Leone, and providing long-term scholarships to encourage girls to stay in school from primary school age through college.There are many ways to help Youth Action International. We have active chapters at colleges and universities across the United States. Donations will help alleviate the suffering of many children living in regions affected by disease, poverty, and conflict. A snapshopt of YAI’s impact on women and children in 2007: • 100,000 West African youth benefit from YAI’s youth empowerment programs. • 5,000 children climb on a new playground and rediscover their youth through YAI and the power to play. • 700 youth in the U.S. are actively engaged through YAI member chapters. YAI speaking tours reach 40,000 youth each year, world-wide. • 400 single mothers gain work skills, receive micro-loans and claim a place of influence in their communities. • 200 young women learn via lifetime scholarships and experience the strenght of education. • 300 children heal from illness through medical care and receive the opportunity to grow to their full potential. • 150 Ugandan families receive agricultural training and seeds to become self sustainable.
“MANY PEOPLE ARE AFRAID to come to West Point. A lot of former rebel soldiers live here, and people are poor. There are many children here who have been kidnapped from villages in the country and brought here to work for someone, begging or selling different things. They don’t go to school and are treated like slaves. Poor girls are exploited by older men. Sometimes the man offers to pay the girl’s school fees, but only if he can exploit her. We do street theatre to help people understand that it’s wrong to treat children like that. YAI supports us because they believe it’s important for people to know what’s happening to children. People like our plays and discussions often arise afterwards.” Philomena, 15 (Source: World’s
“I’m so happy to have started school here. It’s like a real school, but more fun. I used to have to work every day and washed clothes, fetch water and go to the market for food. But one day my aunt told me about the extra school, where children can learn things, and said that I could go! Now I can write my name and I have loads of new friends. I want to be the president of Liberia. When I’m president I will lower the price of rice, because poor people can’t afford to buy it.” Rina, 9 (Source: World’s Children’s Prize Magazine)
“ IT’S THE END of term at Zoe-Louise Preparatory School in Monrovia and Anthionette, 12, is introducing today’s speaker: “Kimmie Weeks is a role model for us, because he works hard to make life better for children in Liberia.” Kimmie’s organization, Youth Action International, has trained the teachers at Anthionette’s school and provided more fun school resources. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your background is,” says Kimmie. “I grew up with no father, I was hungry and I had to beg for money to pay my school fees. Keep fighting! Don’t give up! Make Liberia a better place to live!” “I want to be a just Lawyer,” Says Anthionette. “Because here in Liberia, many lawyers are unjust. Anyone who has money can make sure guilty people get away with crimes. That’s not good. I want Liberia to remember me as the Just Lawyer.” (Source: World’s Children’s Prize Magazine) ” Philomena, 15 (Source: World’s
“ YAI makes school fun “UNFORTUNATELY, many schools in Liberia are boring,” says Helena Carter, who runs the school program in YAI. “Often the teaching just consists of a teacher writing on a chalkboard while the children copy into their jotters. If any student makes a mistake or talks in class, the teacher is quick to punish them with the cane. We wants to change that. It has to be fun for the children to learn. That makes it easy to learn.” “That’s why everyone loves the YAI school program. We do games, songs, rhymes and dances. We train the teachers not to beat the children. They think it’s impossible to get children to obey them without hitting them. But that’s totally wrong. ‘Talk to the children,’ we say. YAI has trained 400 teachers. The schools that are part of the program have become very popular and lots of children wants to attend them.” (Source: World’s Children’s Prize Magazine)
“Girls learn a trade “AFTER SCHOOL I walk for an hour to go here to the YAI girls’ center. Here we can learn a trade. I’ve already learn to do hair extension and nails, like at a real beauty salon. The course is free. That’s lucky, because my family would never be able to afford to pay. When I’ve finished the course I’m going to start a hair salon. If I earn enough money I’ll continue my education. I want to be an engineer and help to rebuild Liberia. The first thing I’m going to do is fix and asphalt all the roads. They’re in a terrible state. Then I’ll make sure all the roads have streetlights. The worst thing that happened to me was when I had to take care of my aunt’s baby instead of going to school.” Charity L Jargbo, 15 (Source: World’s Children’s Prize Magazine)
““Youth Action International’s Mother Goose Time program helped me a lot because I did not know how to teach Phonics. The children has shown great enthusiasm and this has reduced the amount of time I beat on them.” (Liberian teacher, In the same classroom the children told the interviewer, “We are not beaten these days…we love Mother Goose.”
““Mother Goose Time taught me a lot of things and made great changes in my class. Now I can move freely because of the revised class set up..The children have become happier since MGT was introduced.” (Liberian teacher “It helped to monitor my work effectively becuase I could see the immediate impact on my students.” (Liberian teacher,)
““The program YAI started brought great changes to my class. We now have decorations all around and the mood has always been joyful since we receive MGT materials.” (Liberian Teacher,)