The Albany Herald
ALBANY — While in town to make a personal visit to her son, Dr. James Sirleaf, interim medical director of the emergency department at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, a head of state from Africa made an appearance at Phoebe as well as the Albany Museum of Art on Monday as a way to reach out to Southwest Georgia about her and her son’s foundation and the difference she has seen philanthropy make.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female elected head of state in Africa, appeared alongside the younger Sirleaf at Phoebe on Monday morning before the hospital’s employees. While there, she received a presentation from The Family Tree child care center, a key to the city of Albany from Mayor Dorothy Hubbard and a certificate of congressional recognition from U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, before she was brought up to the podium by her son.
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Upon taking the stage, she spoke of the deficiencies in care that often result in children from her country walking long distances to receive health care — and of how years of conflict have left the nation with the task to rebuild, which the United States has had a role in helping with.
“The progress we have made has allowed us to build schools and get roadways back going that have been destroyed,” she said.
The president also spoke of how Phoebe was established more than a century ago with the help of a donation, and related that to the impact she has seen such contributions make.
“That is the kind of philanthropy that today makes a difference in humanity,” she said while addressing the hospital’s employees. “I want to say a big thank you for all you have done.”
She also mentioned Hubbard, who she related as being a woman in power.
“When we go around and see a woman in high places we say, ‘Yes,’ because empowerment of women is something we work so hard for,” she said.
She also made mention of her initial reaction to her son’s decision to practice in Albany, and his reason for taking the job. “He said, ‘I want to go to a place where my service can make a difference,’” she recalled.
In 2011, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, jointly with fellow Liberian Leymah Gbowee and Tawakekel Karmen of Yemen, who were recognized for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights.
The morning event was in advance of an evening fundraiser at the Albany Museum of Art. The funds collected are going to HEARTT, the Health Education And Relief Through Teaching, Foundation. HEARTT, which the Sirleafs are founding members of, assists under-developed communities with the development of fully-functioning and sustainable health care systems through relief and educational services.
When speaking with reporters, Dr. Sirleaf indicated that Phoebe might get involved with HEARTT, which could mean physicians in the area being sent to the Republic of Liberia to help with the cause.
“We are hoping we can make some connection (between HEARTT and Phoebe),” he said. “We are in preliminary discussions on getting Phoebe on board. We’ll see how the community supports it.”.
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