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Sierra Leonean-American Football Star Launches Global Health Center

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American football player Madieu Williams is launching a Center for Global Health that will focus on public health initiatives in Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, and Prince George's County, Maryland.
Madieu Williams plays free safety for the professional American football team the Minnesota Vikings. But he is not just a star football player, he also wants to give back to the two unique communities that he calls home.

Williams was just nine years old when his family moved from the West African nation of Sierra Leone to the eastern U.S. state of Maryland.

Now at 28, Williams is using his success in the National Football League to set up a Center for Global Health Initiatives at his alma mater, the University of Maryland. The $2 million endowment from Williams will provide annual support to the center that will focus on public health issues in his African birthplace and Prince George's County, Maryland, where he grew up.

The center will work in partnership with the university, Prince George's County, and the Embassy of Sierra Leone.

Williams, who visits Sierra Leone regularly in the off season, says it is important to give back to these communities.

"It was very important to me to make sure I am able to reach back to the past in Prince George's County and also Sierra Leone where I was born," Williams said. "Those two places have a very special place in my heart and I wanted to make sure that I will always have - I can leave a footprint or some type of legacy behind in those two places."

In 2003, Williams graduated from University of Maryland's School of Public Health with a degree in family science. A year later, he set up the Madieu Williams Foundation to promote healthy living for underprivileged youth.

Williams says by supporting the Center for Global Health, he wants to build on the work his foundation has started.

"The vision started years ago - I was thinking about ways to give back to the university but also continue to build upon some of the programs that I have started within my foundation," Williams explained. "I thought it was a great idea to create an endowment that focuses on some of the things I have an interest in but also is a way for me to give back to the university."

Williams says his mother, who was a nurse, inspired in him the passion for social responsibility.