|Minnesota Vikings star Madieu Williams: University of Maryland/NBC Nightly News|
Sierra Leone--When our driver asked for directions to the school, the man standing by the side of a badly rutted dirt road lifted both arms and seemed to be pointing to the sky. "Go up that steep green hill, with what passes for a road," he was saying. It was more trail than road. But eventually we got there.
It was June 16, the International Day of the African Child, an annual moment of recognition that has been observed across the continent since 1992, when scores of South African school children who were demanding a better education in the South African township of Soweto were massacred by apartheid-era security forces in what became known as the Sharpeville Massacre. It's a terrible piece of history that seems far removed from the World Cup competition happening in the same place where Nelson Mandela, who served 27 years in prison for his civil rights activism, is now a former President.
We were visiting the Abigail D. Butscher Primary school in Freetown, Sierra Leone, a place where the children need a decade of recognition, perhaps two—not just a day. The school was built by Madieu Williams, Butscher's son, a man better known for his work Sunday afternoons for the NFL's Minnesota Vikings than for his efforts in West Africa. Williams is why we are here. The family came to the U.S. when he was just nine years old. Now, he's a rising football star, a Free Safety for the Vikings. When he's not trying to stop the NFL's best receivers, he's a philanthropist, humanitarian and world citizen, who's back where he was born, trying to make a difference.
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