All Press Releases for 12/27/2004

Liberian Activist Kimmie Weeks To End Five-Year Political Exile - Returns To West Africa At Head Of Mission To Study And Raise International Concern For Children In Armed Conflicts, Announces PeaceFor

InterExiled Liberian child rights activist, Kimmie Weeks, will return to his native Liberia in January 2005 at the head of a team of researchers studying and bringing international attention to the needs of former child soldiers and children affected by w

SOUTH HADLEY, Massachusetts / PR FREE / Dec 27 2004 --
Exiled Liberian child rights activist, Kimmie Weeks, who turned 23 this year, will return to his native Liberia in January 2005 after five years of political exile in the United States of America. Weeks fled Liberia in 1998 when security forces loyal to the regime of Charles Taylor sought to assassinate him for a report he had released on the recruitment and training of children as soldiers by the Liberian military.

Weeks' return visit is part of a global campaign to study and bring international attention to the use of children in armed conflicts. According to Weeks “the issue of the use of children in war is an important one, which unfortunately is not receiving the international attention it deserves. It is my hope that this campaign will bring new awareness to the use of children in armed conflicts. My ultimate goal is to find ways to ensure that children who are given arms can be disarmed and reintegrated into society as useful members.”

Weeks hopes to visit each continent where child soldier’s disarmament and demobilization are in progress or have been successful and then apply those success strategies to countries still actively recruiting and using children in armies. He will begin the first phase of this campaign in West Africa.

Weeks' journey starts in January 2005 in Sierra Leone where it is estimated that 5,000 to 10,000 children fought in the conflict. Weeks and his team of researchers will arrive in Freetown, Sierra Leone in early January to begin talks with government officials and agencies who worked on the disarmament and are currently running rehabilitation programs for Sierra Leone’s child soldiers. Weeks explained, “This will be a fact-finding mission. Sierra Leone was successfully able to disarm hundreds of child soldiers and is currently in the process of reintegrating them back into society.” Weeks and his team are expected to spend one week working in Sierra Leone before departing for Liberia.

The visit to Liberia will include monitoring the disarmament of hundreds of children currently serving in rebel forces, meeting with Liberian legislator and policy makers to propose stronger legislation to protect children from war. Weeks will also meet with child soldiers and the agencies responsible for reintegrating them into society. Kimmie’s aspirations can be summed up in his own words - “As I go to Liberia, I go with an ear to listen to the hopes and dreams of children and adults, I’ll hopefully come out and be able to tell the world that this is what the people in Liberia and Sierra Leone want. Stop trying to do what you think is right for them - let’s all listen to the people themselves, let’s pay keen attention to the child victims, and most importantly, let’s empower them to rise from being victims and become triumphant heroes and heroines”.

About Weeks
Weeks started his activism at the age of 10 by organizing a group of local volunteers to clean communities littered by the debris of war. That same year, he also volunteered in understaffed temporary hospitals, caring for sick babies and children. Since then, Weeks has served as founder for several humanitarian organizations in Liberia including the Voice of the Future Inc., which currently works as an implementing partner with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to provide informal education, health care and rebuilds playgrounds for children in Liberia. In 1996, he established and chaired the Children’s Disarmament Campaign, an effort to convince local warlords to disarm the 20,000 Liberian child soldiers fighting and killing each other. Kimmie’s third organization the Children’s Bureau of Information, continues to produce radio programs disseminating messages of reconciliation in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Today he is an internationally acclaimed child rights activist, environmentalist and motivational speaker as well as Senior Planner and Advisor to the 2004 UN Children’s Conference on the Environment, Ambassador of UNESCO’s Manifesto 2000 for a culture of peace and non-violence, Director of Youth Action International, and on the Board of advisors to Youth for Environmental Sanity (YES).

When asked what his accomplishments were in regard to children’s rights in Liberia and globally, Weeks said, “It's hard to measure one's accomplishments when so many children are still suffering and dying every day from preventable causes. Yes, a few lives might have been saved because of some of my work and yes, a few more children might be in school as a result, but these achievements pale in comparison to the 30,000 children who die every day from preventable causes”

Besides having spoken to many prominent world leaders Weeks has been recognized by various organizations for his devotion and determination to promote peace and his efforts to reach out to the children impacted by conflict situations. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors such as Martin Luther King Peace Medal, Activist of the Year 2000, Award for Heroism, Goodwill Games Medallion, Child Rights Activist Award '96, '98, '99, and the Most Influential Youth Award, among others.

Weeks' return journey will be documented by a BBC film crew producing a documentary called “Kimmie Weeks: Back to the Front."

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