Shirley Cherif-Sonko (Dominiquera)

CEO/ Co-Founder

Shirley Cherif is a native of Columbus, Georgia and a very active member of her community; she volunteered  with many local nonprofit organizations such as Feeding the Valley, Safe Kids of Columbus and The Columbus Chapter of the Enrichment Services. Prior to co-founding Big Dreams, Shirley has managed several family’s business for years; and has an extensive background in business management, and accounting.

Shirley education back is Business Management  and Accounting and pursuing to go back for more Education .

Shirley had the opportunity to travel with her husband to many countries during his deployment as a civilian contractor, but  despite all of the countries she found a newfound love in Gambia.

Before her first visit to Africa, Shirley recalled from her childhood memories and hearing about Africa  as being a continent full of poor people, full of disease, hardship, and children running around naked.

However, going to Africa changed her whole outlook about the continent forever. She was amazed by the true culture of Africa and the beautiful nature of its people; she learned that there was more to Africa than what was portrayed in the media. During multiple trips back home as she calls it, Shirley has learned that the people of Africa may have limited resources but they are very creative,  self-sufficient and full of love.

Shirley’s passion for mentoring children and young girls developed during her years of travel to the Gambia and seeing a tremendous increase in the school’s drop-out rate especially in young girls who had so much passion and admiration for educationbut in need of financial assistance to help fulfill their academic goals.  Shirley felt that children, especially young girls both in the U.S and the Gambia would benefit from having a mentor providing additional guidance and much needed tuition assistance and school supplies. This gave her the vision to help start what is now known as Big Dreams, Inc.

Shirley dedicates her community service to her beloved sister Bertha Sue Pitts who passed away in 2012 of obesity who used to tell her that “Never forget to help other people, because at one point of time in life you wanted someone to help you”. Recognizing the physical and emotional effects of a sedentary lifestyle Shirley wants the children to have faith, a belief in personal responsibility, and she wants to instilling positive habits and a  passionate commitment to excellence in them so that they can succeed and achieve all of their Big Dreams.