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Sylvia Emmalene Cheeks Obituary
(One of the founders of the Youth Affairs Bureau (Ministry of Youth & Sports) and the Group of 77)

November 12, 2011, Annapolis, Maryland – This day marked the burial for the late Sylvia E. Cheeks, a great pioneer of Liberia, in Annapolis, Maryland. Ms. Cheeks died on October 23rd 2011, in the United States of America. Ms. Cheeks was the daughter of the late General Charles G. Cheeks (Chief Surveyor R.L., Aide Camp to President William V.S. Tubman and Commissioner of Kakata City - of Native American decent) and Lucy Bettie Cheeks of Johnsonville, Liberia - both of whom predeceased her. She obtained her primary education at the St. Christopher Catholic School in Kakata, Margibi County. She later matriculated to Monrovia and attended the Monrovia College & Industrial Training Institute, where she obtained her high school education. Ms. Cheeks received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Liberia, in the studies of Sociology & Rehabilitation.

Sylvia E. Cheeks was not just an ordinary Liberian; she was an innovator, an experienced trainer, and a great resource person. The Historical Lights of Liberia, a required history book (core curriculum) that was used in Liberian schools pre-1990, carried the name of Sylvia E. Cheeks. The book detailed significant contributions that Ms. Cheeks had made to Liberia. A particular chapter referenced great citizens who had served their country and stated that Sylvia E. Cheeks and nine (9) other Liberians were selected by President William R. Tolbert to travel to the State of Israel to be trained in military strategy, youth development, physical therapy, trauma counseling and rehabilitation. Upon completion of their training, Ms. Cheeks received a “Gold Pin” and “Purple Stripe” from the State of Israel for “Distinguished Service.” She brought back many items (water from the Dead & Red Seas; elements from Kings David & Solomon’s graves, and particles from the sculpture of Lot’s wife, among other artifacts) to Liberia to share with interested parties.

The pronouncement of Ms. Cheeks’ death came as a shock not just to her children, but to the entire nation. Her children had lost a dear mother, but Liberia had lost a great servant and resourceful citizen. A woman whose ingenuity had led to the establishment of many ministries and organizations in Liberia – especially with regards to youth development. Ms. Cheeks served as the Director of Human Resources and Development at the Ministry of Labor, Youth & Sports. She also served as physical therapist/trauma counselor at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare; Executive Coordinator and Counselor of the Group of 77; and Director, Youth On-The-Job Training Program (YOJTP) at the Ministry of Youth & Sports, among others. She was the founder of the Youth Affairs Bureau (LNYO) – Ministry of Youth & Sports; The Youth On-The-Job Training Program (YOJTP) – Ministry of Youth & Sports; and The Group of 77 (Mentally ill unit).

Ms. Cheeks was decorated in the “Star of Africa” by the late President William R. Tolbert – for “Outstanding Contributions” rendered to the development of the Youth of Liberia. She was also commissioned by the late President William R. Tolbert as Director of Human Resources and Development, Ministry of Labor, Youth & Sports. She was certified as “Special Mother of the Year,” by the Evening Star Baptist Church for her contributions to the church and for her work to improve humanity. Ms. Cheeks received certifications from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the areas of tracing and family reunification; and Special Emergency Life Food (SELF) for her development of the Community Sensitization Program re the plight of child soldiers.

In her sojourn, Sylvia E. Cheeks traveled extensively, both locally and internationally, representing her country. She traveled to the State of Kenya where she was trained in youth development, rehabilitation, and youth recreational centers, among others. She also traveled to Ghana where she received training in the areas of rehabilitation, counseling, and human resource development. In 1990, during the Liberian civil war, Ms. Cheeks returned to Ghana and became the famous head of “Area G.” While in Ghana, she made her time useful by attending specialized classes and receiving certifications.

Ms. Cheeks represented her country and government at several international forums including a major conference to the Canary Islands, Spain, where she joined international delegates in Las Palmas to discuss the future and development of Liberian Youth.

Ms. Cheeks was married twice and blessed with seven (7) children (one predeceased) including foster children; two (2) children-in-law; eight (8) grandchildren; and two (2) great grandchildren. She also leaves to mourn her loss twin sisters and two brothers, as well as several nieces, nephews, cousins, and special friends.

May the soul of Sylvia E. Cheeks’, “Mama Dear”, rest in peace, and life perpetual forever shine upon her.
Note: A Memorial Service to honor the great contributions of Ms. Cheeks will be held in Maryland, November 2012.

 

 

 

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