Mabvuto Banda, Reuters, October 4, 2006
Lilongwe — Pop diva Madonna adopted a young boy in Malawi on Wednesday and moved ahead with plans to fund a center for 1,000 orphans, many of whom lost parents to AIDS in the impoverished African nation.
The “Material Girl” and an entourage arrived in the Malawian capital Lilongwe by private plane early on Wednesday and were quickly whisked away to an undisclosed location in a fleet of cars and trucks.
Government officials said the 48-year-old singer, already a mother of two, chose the one-year-old orphan from among 12 children specially chosen prior to her arrival in the country, which has legions of children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic.
The trip has stoked high expectations in Malawi, a nation of 13 million people who are dependent on tobacco exports.
Madonna has said she plans to spend at least $3 million on programs to support orphans in Malawi and another $1 million to fund a documentary about the plight of children in the country.
She traveled to Mphandula, a village 20 km (12.5 miles) outside Lilongwe, where she is funding the construction of the Raising Malawi center to feed and educate around 1,000 orphans.
Residents in Mphandula, which has no electricity, were earlier busy rehearsing songs and preparing for her arrival.
Critics have described the project as a publicity stunt that follows in the footsteps of other celebrities, including actress Angelina Jolie, who have taken up causes on the world’s poorest continent.
As part of their studies, orphans at the center will be taught a curriculum based on Spirituality for Kids linked to the Kabbalah school of mysticism to which Madonna adheres.