Nightly News | September 08, 2010
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Finally tonight, our MAKING A DIFFERENCE report about a man who comes from one of the poorest places in the world in the grips of a brutal civil war . Now, he just happens to be a pro football player and you'll see him on NBC tomorrow night in the season opener as his Vikings take on the world champion Saints in New Orleans . His name is Madieu Williams , and our own Ron Allen has retraced his story all the way to Sierra Leone in West Africa , where he goes to give back.
RON ALLEN reporting: Madieu Williams has come home to a school he built in a poor community in Sierra Leone .
Mr. MADIEU WILLIAMS: I see a lot of myself in these children and give them an opportunity, the sky's the limit.
ALLEN: He's brought volunteers from a group called Healing Hands and a friend and fellow football player, D'Qwell Jackson . Handing out basic school supplies. Most classes often don't have books. Most students never finish grade school .
Ms. DONNA AVILA (Volunteer): It's emotional to see those kids so bright, bright, bright and eager and excited and happy.
ALLEN: Dentists came, too, for most kids their first visit.
Unidentified Dentist: It's going to be OK there. I promise you.
Mr. WILLIAMS: This is my street.
ALLEN: Williams was born in this war ravaged nation, 10 years of civil war , infrastructure destroyed. More than half live on about $1 per day. Now Williams is a star football player, number 20 on the Minnesota Vikings , but never far from his roots. You've said you don't want to be defined by football.
Mr. WILLIAMS: Yeah. It doesn't last long. The acronym NFL, "Not For Long." And for the most part...
ALLEN: That's what NFL stands for?
Mr. WILLIAMS: Well, in the locker room, at least, that's what it is.
ALLEN: I never knew that.
Mr. WILLIAMS: But at the end of the day , I have other interests outside of football. Take a look at it...
ALLEN: Williams left Sierra Leone for the US when he was nine.
Mr. WILLIAMS: Yeah, that's the house.
ALLEN: That's not much.
Mr. WILLIAMS: No.
ALLEN: He says his family, especially his mother, a nurse who he lost at just 45, taught him compassion. He named his school for her.
Mr. WILLIAMS: To keep her memory alive. I know that's something that she would have wanted. The Madieu Williams Center for Global ...
ALLEN: He further honored her by giving $2 million to the University of Maryland , his alma mater.
Mr. WILLIAMS: It's priceless, the amount of lives that is going to be -- that is going to be affected for a lifetime.
ALLEN: His endowment will fund education and health care research to help places like Sierra Leone .
Dr. JAMIE FLORES: Does that hurt?
ALLEN: It will also bring more volunteers like Dr. Jamie Flores , a plastic surgeon, here examining Zina , 13, disfigured by a tooth infection, abandoned by her family.
Dr. FLORES: They have six dentists for six million people.
ALLEN: How difficult is it to be here?
Mr. D'QWELL JACKSON (Cleveland Browns Linebacker): It's disappointing knowing the lack of resources.
ALLEN: More than 40 percent of children here never see the age of five. Williams has accomplished quite a bit, but if you ask him he'll tell you this is really just the beginning. He wants to build more schools for higher grades so that kids like this have a chance to go all the way through high school . Back at the hospital, Flores performs a routine procedure to give Zina relief. And that football player and friend of Williams is so moved by the suffering he makes this promise to Zina .
Mr. JACKSON: I'm going to make it my personal business when I get back to see to it that that girl has an education. And that's -- and that's my word.
Mr. WILLIAMS: Five times two.
ALLEN: Essentially the same promise Madieu Williams has made for the children of Sierra Leone . Ron Allen , NBC News , Calaba Town , Sierra Leone .
WILLIAMS: And Madieu Williams and his teammates take on the Saints tomorrow night.