Caught Caring: Madonna and Raising Malawi
The tiny African nation of Malawi was unknown to many just a few short years ago, but pop icon Madonna brought it into the forefront when she initiated the adoption of son David Banda, 4, in 2006. Not long thereafter, she added daughter Mercy James, 4 this month, to her brood.
With more than 500,000 Malawian children orphaned by AIDS, the 51-year-old songstress admits in a new interview with CNN she “would love to take them all home” if she could. That’s not possible, of course, so Madonna did the next best thing: In 2006 she co-founded Raising Malawi, a non-profit organization aimed at delivering services and aid to the 14 million people who live there.
“We found and met a lot of people who are sick and dying of HIV and have no medical help,” she recalls. “It felt like a death camp. It was astonishing.”
At the same time, Madonna describes the Malawian people as “incredibly brave.” She adds,
“On the one hand I went there and thought: ‘I have to help, I have to save these people.’ And then I thought: ‘Wait a minute, I think it might be the other way around. I think they might be saving me.'”
Giving back has given Madonna a better “appreciation for life,” she says. “I never intended to go to Malawi and dump a bunch of aid on people and flee the country; It’s always been about partnership.”
Her efforts will come to fruition in 2012, when the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls is scheduled to open.
The boarding school comes with a $15 million price tag, but Madonna has vowed to match each and every dollar donated towards the cause — and she’s matched $300,000 in donations already.
Click below to read about Raising Malawi’s other initiatives.
Raising Malawi is already having a sizable impact in other areas of Malawian life, however. Over 66,000 children and adults living with HIV/AIDS, malaria and other illnesses have received life-saving treatments and care, 159 community-based childcare centers have been constructed, and 6,000 households have benefited from the establishment of communal gardens and distribution of livestock, leading to better overall sustainability.
While there is still much work to be done, Madonna is optimistic about the future of Malawi.
“It can be [overwhelming] sometimes. It stops you dead in your tracks. You think, ‘Oh my God, I can’t do this.’ But then I see the success rate, I talk to the people in Malawi whose lives have been changed, and it helps me. It keeps me going.”
In addition to David and Mercy, Madonna is mom to Lourdes Maria, 13, and Rocco John, 9.
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