Liberian dignitary visits West Milford

'Life-altering' effect on local 4-H club


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  • PHOTO PROVIDED G Umaru Sheriff visited West Milford from Liberia. An advocate for 4-H, he is seen here with members of West Milford's Velveteen 4-H club.



"Mr. Sheriff's visit was life altering for me, and I will wager for the club members who met him."
Celeste Hampton, Velveteen 4-H leader

BY ANN GENADER

A recent visitor to West Milford from Liberia continued his observation of agriculture here and at other points along the east coast in his quest to find ways to help his people.

About 85 percent of the population of Liberia was left living below the poverty line after many years of civil war was followed by an Ebola virus epidemic between March 2014 and May 2015. Hundreds of thousands of people died.

'Life altering' visitIn a merit-based competition among young leaders between ages 25 and 35, G Umaru Sheriff was successful - from among 4,000 Liberian candidates – to be one of those chosen to be awarded the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. Actually, 64,000 Africans from nations throughout the continent had applied for a fellowship.

Places where Sheriff observed agricultural and animal raising strategies included the New Jersey State Fair/Sussex County Farm and Horse Show, Rutgers University, and an Orange County, N.Y., farm. He was the house guest of George and Celeste Hampton of West Milford while he visited the various places. Celeste Hampton is the leader of the Velveteen 4-H Club of Passaic County.

"Mr. Sheriff's visit was life altering for me, and I will wager for the club members who met him," said Celeste Hampton in an email. "The man is on fire for 4-H, and raised the level of awareness of the value of the 4-H programs to all who met him."

Re-establishing 4-H in LiberiaSheriff is national executive director of 4-H Liberia Incorporated and is one of the key individuals who in 2006 re-established 4-H there as a national non-governmental organization dedicated to teaching agricultural education and leadership to youth in the nation.

He helped develop a strategic plan for 4-H Liberia with focus on agricultural and leadership training skills for youth.

In the United States, Sheriff studied best practices in management of business, agriculture and civic leadership. He said the path to a better future for his country exists in the values and skills being taught through 4-H. He sees educating young people as being very important in bringing a bright future to his country.

Celeste Hampton said she totally agrees with him.

Sheriff's historySheriff has always lived in Liberia with the exception of his time as a refugee during the Liberian Civil War which ended in 2003. During that time, he spent five years in Sierra Leone.

Before he was 10 years old in 1992, the family had to leave their country. His father was captured and, as a suspected militant, was in prison for three years. Survival was a day-to-day struggle for Sheriff with his family separated. Amnesty International helped reunite them.

Later, he became a 2010 graduate of the University of Liberia with a BBA in accounting and public administration. He also has taken courses and participated in agricultural education workshops.

A learning experienceCeleste Hampton and her Velveteen 4-H Club learned of the food shortage problems in Liberia and other nations several years ago and they began an ongoing program to send organic seeds to these countries. The shipments are sent through the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

Sheriff visited the United Methodist Church at Newfoundland and spoke to the congregation which has been very supportive of the Velveteen Club’s efforts. He was honored at a reception there arranged by CarlLa Horton.


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