Malawi

buildOn & Raising Malawi Complete 10 Schools in Malawi

This year buildOn partnered with Madonna and Raising Malawi to build ten schools in villages chosen from a list of communities in need of new infrastructure. We said we would build all ten schools within 18 months. We did it in 12!
Malawi is one of the economically poorest countries on the planet; only 12% of women complete secondary education and nearly half of adult women are illiterate. Literacy is a life-changing gift that will transform the futures of girls and boys across Malawi and that will change the economic future of their nation.
Over 4,800 children in Malawi will receive an education at a buildOn school in their own village. Six of the schools are already in use and all ten will be up and running in January 2013. These students will no longer have to walk miles to reach a school in a neighboring village. They no longer have to learn math under a tree, or study their ABC’s under a thatched roof. They can go to class even when it rains. And because of our focus on gender equality, girls will attend the schools in equal numbers to boys.
'I am overjoyed that my commitment along with buildOn’s to help educate the children of Malawi has come to fruition. In a country where girls have little opportunity for education, it’s additionally inspiring to know that more than half the students attending will be young girls. The fact that nearly 5,000 children in Malawi will get to go to school next year is a tremendous step forward for their individual growth and the growth of Malawi,' commented Madonna in a press release.

To read more about the schools visit http://buildonfromthefield.org


Madonna in new fundraising venture in Malawi

US pop diva Madonna, who is worth $650 million, has launched a new fund-raising drive to support the work of a Malawian paediatric surgeon, her charity announced, two years after she abandoned a girls' academy project in a cloud of alleged mismanagement.
Through her US registered charity Raising Malawi, the 'Queen of Pop' has emailed hordes of her well-wishers and fans, addressing them as Dear Friend, and asking: 'Will you consider donating $5 or more to support people like Dr. Erick Borgstein, for many years the only paediatric surgeon in Malawi, who are helping orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi?'
Malawi, where 39 percent of the 13 million citizens are poor, has over one million orphans and vulnerable children, and less than 200 doctors, creating huge shortages in the medical system.
The charity said Borgstein 'treats thousands of paediatric patients every year, performing hundreds of life-saving operations.'
He also trains medical students in general and in paediatric surgery, thanks to the financial support from Raising Malawi.
'He will now formally train a young Malawian doctor to follow in his footsteps as a paediatric surgeon,' the charity added.
Raising Malawi said for the past six years, it has 'remained committed to supporting orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi...This would not be possible without the support of people like you, who share in our mission to end the poverty and hardship endured by the country's estimated one million orphans.'
Calling itself the Raising Malawi Team, the charity thanked its supporters 'for your support...we look forward to sharing future updates with you about the inspirational work of Dr. Borgstein and others.'
It was not clear how much money Madonna is seeking in this new venture, coming more than a year after her charity controversially cancelled the construction of a state-of-the-art $15 million Raising Malawi Academy for Girls -RMAG- in Chinkhota village, 15 kilometres from the capital Lilongwe.
The academy, meant to offer 500 scholarship to girls from poor backgrounds and train them into doctors and future leaders of the country, was mired in allegations of mismanagement, including excessive spending on offices and cars. An audit had found $3.8 million had been misused.
Madonna, who has adopted two children from Malawi - Mercy James and David Banda - said she had realised the academy would not be enough as two-thirds of Malawian girls are not educated beyond primary school and she wanted to reach 'thousands and not hundreds of girls' by constructing several schools.
She said she was focussed on an approach to build 10 schools within communities across the country, that would educate at least 1,000 children a year, half of them girls.
The charity has teamed up with the non-profit group buildOn, which has constructed 54 primary schools in Malawi in the last 19 years.

From AFP Via Yahoo! News


Madonna: Happy Joyce Banda is Malawi's president

Madonna says she's happy that Malawi's former vice president is now leading the country.
Joy Banda became president Saturday and is the country's first women leader. Former president Bingu wa Mutharika died of a heart attack on April 5.
Madonna adopted two Malawian children and started the charity, Raising Malawi, in 2006. It assists orphanages and other aid programs in the country.
The singer called Banda 'amazing' and said she interviewed the 62-year-old for her 2008 documentary, 'I Am Because We Are,' about Malawian orphans who lost family members to HIV/AIDS.
'She was really into girls being educated in Africa, which is a good thing,' Madonna said in an interview Thursday night. 'So, I'm glad.'

From Associated Press Via Yahoo! News


Madonna says charity plans 10 schools in Malawi

Nearly six years after it was created, Madonna's Raising Malawi charity is set to break ground on the construction of schools in the impoverished country, but they will be run by the local community, not the superstar's organization.
According to organizers, work on the first school will start on March 30 in the Kasungu area, about 80 miles from the capital of Lilongwe, and all of the schools should be built by June 2013. Raising Malawi is providing $300,000 to the non-governmental organization buildOn to develop the schools. They'll serve about 1,000 boys and girls in the southern African nation.
'This remains a very big priority in my life and I am excited that with the help of buildOn we can maintain our ongoing commitment to move forward efficiently,' Madonna said in a statement provided to The Associated Press.
Raising Malawi had originally intended to build all-girls schools that the organization would run. But it faced several obstacles in its goal, including complaints from some local farmers that they had been moved off land that Raising Malawi intended to use for its mission. Raising Malawi also had difficulty getting title to the land and there were concerns about the high costs of construction.
The new plan calls for 'simple structures' that will be more practical and better serve Raising Malawi's original mission, said Trevor Neilson, who is helping to direct the project as partner of the Global Philanthropy Group. The approach will allow the program to serve twice as many children as before, Madonna said.
'I have learned a great deal over the last few years and feel so much more confident that we can reach out goals to educate children in Malawi, especially young girls, in a much more efficient and practical way,' she said. Madonna has adopted two children from Malawi.
BuildOn has already built more than 50 schools in Malawi and 427 schools worldwide.
'For schools to be successful, they need to have community ownership and leadership,' Neilson said in an interview Friday. 'Raising Malawi shouldn't be running schools in Malawi. Local communities in Malawi should be running those schools, so that's a big part of the shift.'
BuildOn has been working in Malawi for almost 20 years, said spokeswoman Carrie Pena. The organization works closely with the community, and locals even volunteer the labor to build the schools, according to Pena.
'It's absolutely a community-owned school,' she said.
Neilson praised Madonna for sticking with her plan to build schools for Malawi's children despite several setbacks for the star, who is the director of the new movie 'W.E.,' out next week, and is this year's Super Bowl performer. Madonna brought in Global Philanthropy to work with Raising Malawi more than a year ago and removed the involvement of the Kabbalah Centre. She has practiced Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism.
'When the previous management team had those problems, I think a lot of people thought Madonna would give up,' Neilson said 'It would have been understandable, but instead she's going to reaching twice as many kids.'

From Associated Press Via Yahoo! News


Madonna 'to open Malawi orphan care centre'

Madonna has revealed plans to open an orphanage in Malawi.
The '4 Minutes' singer, who adopted son David and daughter Mercy from the impoverished South African country, explained her charitable goals in an interview for Ovation's new series American Revolutionaries: The Hitmakers.
Madonna explained: 'My short term goals are to build an orphan care centre that will service and reach at least 1,000 children and I'm also actively involved in funding several orphanages that already exist.'
It was reported in March that Madonna's charity Raising Malawi had squandered more than £2.4 million ($3.8m) over plans for a school that was never built, leading to an upheaval in the foundation's board of directors.
Madonna was later said to be considering taking legal action against the directors following the financial mismanagement.
She revealed in January 2011 that she planned to restructure Raising Malawi so that the charity could operate on a 'bigger scale' in the coming years.

From Digital Spy


Madonna's Malawi orphan scheme facing money crisis

A program in Malawi which helps feed orphaned children is facing a financial crisis after Madonna's charity cut funding, according to a U.K. report.
The pop superstar, who has adopted two children from the African nation, helped set up an organisation called Raising Malawi to aid residents of the poverty-stricken nation.
The charity was thrown into chaos earlier this year when plans to build a girls' school collapsed amid allegations of financial mismanagement, prompting Madonna to dissolve the foundation's board of directors.
The head of a charity scheme in Malawi called Consol Homes Orphan Care, which feeds more than 24,000 children across the country, has now claimed the program is in jeopardy after money from Raising Malawi was stopped.
Elicy Chapomba, co-founder and head of operations at Consol, tells Britain's The Times, 'Since July last year, no money has been sent and we have resorted to borrowing from the banks.'
Madonna's publicist has alleged funding was cut because a Raising Malawi audit allegedly found evidence of poor financial management at the organisation, explaining, 'Simple financial procedures need to be put in place ensuring that cheques are authorised, disbursements are accounted for and financial documents and resources are....handled by financial staff. Basic monitoring and evaluation of programs....is not implemented.'

From contactmusic.com


Madonna charity subpoenaed

Madonna's charity Raising Malawi and the Kabbalah Centre were hit with subpoenas this week as part of an IRS investigation. But don't expect Madonna - or Kabbalah bigwig Karen Berg - to appear before a grand jury soon. The subpoenas are for documents, not testimony, we are told. Also subpoenaed was Kabbalah charity Success for Kids.
Sources say that behind the scenes, Kabbalists still blame a 'disgruntled former member' for the media storm surrounding the organization, as well as the IRS investigation. Feds are probing the religious non-profit status of the Kabbalah Centre, according to sources. Kabbalah outside litigation council Mathew Rosengart said in a statement, 'The centre and SFK intend to work closely with the IRS and the government, and are in the process of providing responsive information to the subpoenas.'
'Raising Malawi is actively cooperating with all investigations and will continue to do so,' Madonna's publicist, Liz Rosenberg, told The Associated Press in an email saying it would be her only comment.

From the New York Post


Madonna opens legal defence against Malawi workers

US pop icon Madonna has begun her legal defence in a Malawian court as workers at one of the singer's charity projects attempt to sue for unfair dismissal, a tribunal official said Monday.
Eight staff at the failed $15 million Raising Malawi Academy for Girls (RMAG) lodged the action at the end of March claiming they were let go without proper procedures.
The star said 'there is nothing unfair about the termination of the applicants' employment given the termination of employment was necessitated by genuine economic reasons,' in documents filed last week by lawyer Davis Njobvu.
Madonna said the decision not to continue funding the academy project was taken by by her charity Raising Malawi Inc 'after carefully reviewing its financial commitments and future plans and was made in good faith.'
Led by Anjimile Oponya, the former head of the school, the workers allege they were forced to sign a termination agreement they describe as 'unfair and unconstitutional'.
Madonna, who adopted children David Banda and Mercy James from Malawian orphanages, said the charity had proposed to pay them more than they were due on the condition they signed a 'confidentiality agreement.'
The pop star also said Raising Malawi, a US-registered foundation providing funds for the school's construction, was not directly implicated in the affair and it was RMAG that 'would be responsible for any matters relating to the applicants' employment.'
She said RMAG was 'ready and willing to pay the applicants their retrenchments and redundancy benefits calculated in accordance with the Employment Act and the laws of Malawi.'
A hearing of the application to strike out Raising Malawi as a party to the action has been set for Wednesday in Blantyre.
Madonna announced in January that she was reviewing the direction of Raising Malawi, which had originally planned to establish an academy offering 500 scholarships to girls from impoverished backgrounds.
In a statement, she said she had realised the academy would not be enough as two-thirds of girls are not educated beyond primary school and she wanted to reach 'thousands and not hundreds of girls' by constructing several schools in the area.

From AFP Via Yahoo! News


Liz Rosenberg makes Malawi statement

In recent days a number of wild and totally false rumors about Madonna's philanthropy - spread by bloggers and tabloids - have begun appearing on the internet. As we have said previously, Raising Malawi is currently undergoing a series of positive changes in an effort to serve more children. Neither Madonna nor Raising Malawi is being investigated by the FBI or the IRS. It is unfortunate that people have chosen to say things about Raising Malawi and Madonna that are not true. Madonna remains committed and focused on what matters helping the children of Malawi.

From Raising Malawi - thanks to Damon


Madonna takes over the Raising Malawi reins

Madonna has removed the board of directors of her Raising Malawi charity amid accusations it wasted £2.4million on a project to build a school that never got off the ground.
The 52-year-old singer has herself now taken up the reins of the charity, which aims to help orphans and children with AIDS in the African state.
Among the board members axed is Kabbalah co-director Michael Berg.
Madonna took the decision after the charity’s £9 million flagship project – the Raising Malawi Girls’ Academy – was abandoned last week following an audit which discovered £2.4million had been frittered away by staff on golf memberships and chauffeur-driven cars.
And she has called in PR gurus Fabiani and Lehane – dubbed ‘The Masters of Disasters’ – to help her rebuild the charity’s image.
Madonna announced plans for the 500-pupil girls’ school in 2009 and flew into the country to lay the first brick. But two years on there is no further progress, and when The Mail on Sunday visited the site earlier this year it was still scrubland.
A spokesman for the singer confirmed a new interim board had been appointed which, it is understood, will include her manager Guy Oseary. Three of the four previous board members – Berg, John Larkin and Rachel Almog – had links to Kabbalah, the Jewish faith followed by Madonna.
The fourth board member, Philippe Van Den Bossche, was the executive director of Raising Malawi but left the charity last October. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing from any board members.
The Mail on Sunday has learned that Madonna has also hired a team of advisers after being hit by a string of lawsuits from former Raising Malawi employees and criticism over the charity’s handling of the Girls’ Academy project.
She drafted in Mark Fabiani and Chris Lehane, who earned their ‘Masters of Disasters’ sobriquet for their damage-control PR work when they worked for Bill Clinton in the White House.
They are reported to charge fees of £18,000 a month. In an email, Fabiani declined to comment on questions from The Mail on Sunday.
On March 23 – two days before the highly critical Raising Malawi audit was published – US law firm Bingham McCutchen announced they had also been hired by the singer. The firm said they had been appointed to handle ‘corporate, tax, intellectual property and employment work – as well as provide day-to-day legal advice regarding the nonprofit’s operations’.
A statement on the firm’s website said: ‘Madonna decided to change [Raising Malawi’s] focus and direction in order to increase its effectiveness.’
It is understood an internal investigation is still ongoing to establish exactly what happened with the Girls’ Academy project and how such large sums of money were spent without being accounted for.
The academy was planned to have housed 30 classrooms, 12 dormitories and 18 staff houses – including one for the head of the school, Anjimile Oponyo.
A source close to the singer said: ‘Madonna was misled by a series of people, and she was the first to call for an investigation as to how the school funds had been used by the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls.
‘She is the single largest private donor to the country of Malawi, and the vast majority of her programmes have been an enormous success.’

From dailymail.co.uk


Malawian staff sue Madonna for 'unfair dismissal'

Eight ex-employees of a Malawian charity founded by Madonna are suing the pop diva for unfair dismissal after being fired from her $15-million girls' academy, a court official said Monday.
'The staff at Madonna's charity Raising Malawi accuse the singer of terminating their employment due to (a) change in strategy which had not been properly explained to them,' the official told AFP.
'The staff are demanding their terminal benefits because they think their employment was terminated without proper procedures,' added the source, an official of the country's industrial relations court who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Led by the former head of the much-publicised girls' academy, Anjimile Oponya, the senior staff members also claim they are being 'forced to sign a discriminatory termination agreement which is unfair and unconstitutional,' the official said.
Madonna announced in January that she was overhauling plans for Raising Malawi, which was originally to be a school that would offer 500 scholarships to girls from poor backgrounds.
But the pop star said she realised the academy 'would not serve enough children in a country where 33 percent of Malawian girls attend secondary school'.
She said she wanted to 'reach thousands not hundreds of girls with education and would expand the charity's mission and change its management'.
'We are focused on an approach, which builds schools within communities across the country,' she said.
'The implementation of my original vision is now on a much bigger scale. I want to do more and I want to do it better. We are in the process of implementing several changes and additions to the management of Raising Malawi both in the US and Malawi,' she said.
Malawi's education standards have plummeted because of overcrowded classrooms, shortages of teachers and learning materials.
Madonna has adopted two orphans from the impoverished country, David and Mercy, among an army of one million orphaned children whose parents have died of AIDS.
She funds several orphanages, including Home of Hope in Mchinji, 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the capital, Lilongwe, where she first adopted David in 2006.
The orphanages feed, clothe and house 25,000 orphans in central Malawi.

From AFP Via Yahoo! News


Madonna-backed group ends plans for Malawi school

A charitable group backed by pop star Madonna has scrapped its plan to build a school for impoverished girls in Malawi due to mismanagement, the New York Times reported on Thursday.
The organization, Raising Malawi, has ousted its board of directors and replaced its members with a new set of officials that includes Madonna and her manager, the Times reported.
'A thoughtful decision has been made to discontinue plans for the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls, as it was originally conceived,' Michael Berg, co-founder of Raising Malawi, said Thursday in an e-mail to the center's members who had contributed to the project, according to the Times.
Berg, a co-director of the spiritual and educational organization Kabbalah Center International in Los Angeles, could not be reached for comment on Thursday night.
The Times said the effort to build the Malawi school had collapsed after spending $3.8 million on the project and its executive director left in October amid criticism of his management style and cost overruns.
Madonna lent $11 million of her money to the organization. She has been a frequent visitor to Malawi and has adopted two children from the country.
On Thursday, the singer issued a statement to the Times saying she was still intent on working with Raising Malawi.
'There's a real education crisis in Malawi,' she said in the statement given to the Times. 'Sixty-seven percent of girls don't go to secondary school, and this is simply unacceptable.'
A spokeswoman for Madonna could not be reached on Thursday night.

From Reuters Via Yahoo! News


Madonna Malawi project leader lays out plans

Logistical problems and other concerns have led Madonna to abandon her plan to build a girls-only school in Malawi, but the new leader of her effort says the superstar instead plans many more schools with educational groups already working toward that goal.
'Basically, what we'd be doing is expanding the ability for a group of nonprofits to provide education to more kids,' said Trevor Neilson in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday.
Neilson, a former executive with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, joins the Raising Malawi project as a partner of the Global Philanthropy Group, a leading international organization that works with organizations and governments around the globe.
He and several other experienced philanthropy experts became part of Raising Malawi's revamped team in November.
'Madonna increasingly began to have concerns about the effectiveness of the existing strategy and management team, and as a result has made sweeping changes in order to better serve more children in Malawi,' he said.
The Kabbalah Centre, once a part of the project, is no longer involved, Neilson noted. Madonna has practiced Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism, for years.
The bigger changes involve the scope of Madonna's educational plans in the impoverished African country. The superstar, who has adopted a boy and a girl from Malawi, had initially planned to build a school for girls, most of whom don't get the opportunity to go to school.
The school was to be on an approximately 117-acre plot of government land near the capital, Lilongwe. But soon after the location was announced, several local villagers claimed they owned the land and the government was forcing them off of it.
'Obviously, Raising Malawi didn't know anything about this, and was surprised, yet Raising Malawi paid those people over $130,000, which in Malawi is a lot of money,' Neilson said.
Even after that, however, he said, Raising Malawi never got title to the land. In addition, Neilson said the school was being built in an area where there were not many children, and too much effort was being paid to the design of the building.
'Madonna was shocked to find out how much time and money had been spent on architecture,' he said, though declining to give an exact estimate, simply saying, 'too much!'
Instead of creating a Raising Malawi school, the new plan is to use Raising Malawi's resources to partner with other NGOs, or non-governmental organizations, already working to provide a better education in Malawi.
'Working in consultation with a series of non-profits and education efforts, we're looking at a new strategy that builds more schools, but embeds them in communities of Malawi where the students are,' he said.
'Basically what we'd be doing is expanding the ability for a group of non-profits to provide education to more kids,' he added.
Neilson said Raising Malawi has contacted its key donors and informed them of the change in strategy: 'All of the major donors we've talked to are really excited about the strategy.'
Neilson also added that contrary to reports, the charity is still working very closely with the government, and that Madonna called the president's office and explained her new plans.
New schools could be built by the end of this year, and the educational efforts, while geared toward girls, will not exclude boys, he said.
'The need is so broad that you don't want to come into a community and say, `Sorry boys, you can't go to school,'' he said.
Neilson said Madonna would go to the region 'soon' and stressed that she was still fiercely committed to the country: He said Raising Malawi has dispersed $13 million toward charitable efforts over the last few years.
'She's very frustrated that the project has not moved faster and has not reached children with these services in a faster way,' he said. 'Ultimately, that's all that matters, is that children go to school.'
He said Madonna has also denounced Malawi's anti-gay measures, but said she would still work with the country to help the children. 'I don't think that that is core to this project in any way.'

From AP Via Yahoo! News


Madonna's Mercy family to sue over break of visit vow?

Madonna might face legal action from her adopted Malawian daughter's family, after they claimed the singer broke her promise to let them see the little girl.
Madonna, 52, is said to have guaranteed them regular contact with Mercy James, 5, after she adopted the tot from an orphanage in June 2009.
But they have not seen her since, even though Madonna has made two return visits to Malawi with the little girl.
Now they have enlisted the help of the country's leading civil rights group CILIC to prepare a legal case.
The child, whose 16-year-old mother died five days after giving birth, was raised by her grandmother and uncles, but placed in the care of the Kondanani Children's Village when they could no longer look after her.
'Mercy's family have met me several times over the past year and they have been very upset,' the Daily Mail quoted Emmie Chanika, director of CILIC, as saying.
'They have a strong recollection of being told that they would be able to see Mercy and have regular contact with her - and that when she is an adult she will return to live with them in Malawi.'
'I believe they have a case in law because there appears to have been a verbal contract between them and Madonna's representatives.'
'I have already consulted a lawyer on their behalf. Obviously there could be problems as there is no written agreement, but the lawyer is looking into it.'
'I am preparing a letter which will appeal to Madonna's lawyer Alan Chinula to intervene on the family's behalf and ask Madonna to kindly let Mercy meet her family.'
'None of us desires an embarrassing and expensive court case which could humiliate or inconvenience Madonna. The best outcome would be a proper agreement to let Mercy meet her family on a regular basis,' Chanika added.

From ANI


Raising Malawi: Statement from Madonna

Madonna, whose Raising Malawi charity has made substantial inroads helping over a million children orphaned from the AIDS epidemic in that African nation, is stepping up the pace considerably on all fronts - especially in regard to her plans for building the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls.

Madonna issued the following statement:

I remain deeply committed and am more passionate than ever about helping the children of Malawi - especially the girls. In a country where only 33% of Malawian girls attend secondary school, I realize that the plans we had in place for the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls simply would not serve enough children.
My original vision is now on a much bigger scale. I want to reach thousands not hundreds of girls. I want to do more and I want to do it better. While I am grateful to all the people who have given me guidance and support up until now, we are in the process of implementing several changes and additions to the management of Raising Malawi in both the US and Malawi.
I am also working with Trevor Neilson and his team at Global Philanthropy Group to shift the strategies that we had in place so that we can accomplish our goals with more efficiency as we continue to consult with our government partners in Malawi. This is a larger challenge than I thought, but I welcome it. We are focused on an approach, which builds schools within communities across the country.
We are currently determining the size, location, staffing and curriculum of the schools. I will continue to monitor the process of reaching these goals here and through my ongoing visits to Malawi.

Neilson, whose company Global Philanthropy Group advises some of the world's leading philanthropists, was positive about the shift in strategy. 'Raising Malawi's new community-based approach will provide the opportunity for many more girls to receive a quality education. We are focused on ensuring the most efficient implementation of this new strategy in collaboration with Raising Malawi's partners on the ground.'
Neilson also noted the many achievements of Raising Malawi including the construction of a model orphan care center in partnership with Malawi's largest community-based organization as well as assistance to thousands of HIV+ children and caregivers through life saving medical treatments and daily nutritious meals and nutrition supplements.
Additional programming has also provided thousands of children and caregivers in the south of the country with access to clean water through the implementation of piped safe water and the construction of new boreholes.

From www.raisingmalawi.org


Madonna plays Santa for Malawi children

Madonna wasn't able to visit Malawi this Christmas, but she let the children in the six orphanages she funds there know they were very much on her mind this holiday season.
Boxes of toys, chocolate, other sweets and clothes were shipped with a handwritten note from the star, which read, 'To my Malawi children on Christmas and Boxing Day. I wish I was with you. See you soon M.'
Inside the goodie boxes were miniature Christmas cards signed by Madonna, Lourdes and Rocco.
'How so sweet this woman is!' said Lucy Chipeta, director of Home of Hope Orphanage in Mchinji, where Madonna adopted son David in 2006, as more than 500 children scrambled for toys and bars of chocolate.
Near another orphanage, Consol Homes, more than 1,000 people from surrounding villages were invited to an open-air party. All the orphans and under-privileged children who registered with the center received clothes.
'Madonna says she always enjoys the traditional dances the villagers perform for her when she visits,' said Yacinta Chapomba, director of Consol Homes. 'She asked us to invite as many villagers as possible for the Christmas party.'
The singer planned to return to Malawi in November alongside U2 singer Bono, but the trip, according to sources, was rescheduled for the spring.

From People.com


Madonna appeals for fans to 'answer the call'

Madonna, together with the Earth Institute, Ericsson and Millennium Promise launched Connect To Learn, a non-profit global education initiative to greatly improve both the access to and quality of secondary education for children around the world—especially girls. Connect To Learn provides three-year scholarships to attend secondary school and covers tuition, books, uniforms as well as access to broadband technology.


Madonna's architect speaks out about Malawi school

The architectural brains behind Madonna's new all-girl academy in Malawi won the pop star's trust by creating a boarding school blueprint which doesn't resemble a gloomy prison for kids.
German-born Markus Dochantschi was introduced to the star by her Raising Malawi charity director and he offered to create a plan for the perfect school for free.
He tells Architectural Digest magazine that Madonna was very specific about what she wanted her Raising Malawi Academy for Girls to look like.
He says, 'We were asked to design a prototype boarding school replicable by others even in different countries, without repeating the typical British-style school that you see in former British colonies.'
'The design is not just about aesthetics and materials but about helping to understand the society you're building for. For example, in Africa, you realise the importance of open space, of being outside and understanding nature. So we designed a very open pedestrian campus.'
Dochantschi tells the publication the school will cater for 450 students from all over Malawi - the African nation where Madonna adopted two children - and he reveals the pop star is keen for all the children who start the academy to finish with honours.
He adds, 'Traditionally, a lot of girls drop out in eighth grade, shortly before they get married....Madonna hopes that the school will instill pride in their homeland, and that educated young women will understand the importance of remaining in Malawi, supporting their own communities.'
The architect also reveals Madonna broke ground on the school with a shovel which featured the inscription 'Dare to dream'.

From contactmusic.com


Madonna denies Malawian access to adopted girl

Pop superstar Madonna will not allow a man who claims to be the biological father of her adopted Malawian daughter to see the four-year-old, a South African newspaper reported on Sunday.
James Kambewa, 26, who is working as a waiter in Durban, had hoped to meet Mercy whom the wealthy star adopted last year but Madonna's spokeswoman Barbara Charone said the child's father was not known.
'The extended family members had no knowledge of a father. The village leadership had no knowledge of a father....the mother was raped and left,. the Sunday Times quoted Charone as saying.
Mercy was controversially adopted from an orphanage by the 52-year-old pop star after the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned a lower court that blocked the placement. She is Madonna's second adopted Malawian child.
'There was a three-week window between the oral arguments (in court) and the decision, when the man could have made his claim. Again nothing,' said Charone.
'Moreover, the Ministry of Gender has recommended that it would be in the child's best interest not to engage with anyone claiming to be a parent or guardian.'
The court listed Mercy's biological father as unknown and said that she was born in January 2006 to a 14-year-old mother who died days after giving birth.
Kambewa vowed last year to fight the adoption bid, saying media reports had alerted him to the child whom he thought had also died with her mother, with whom he said he had a relationship. The age of consent in Malawi is 14.
He told the Sunday Times earlier this month that he was happy the star was looking after Mercy but hoped to meet her one day.

From AFP Via Yahoo! News


A Message from Madonna on the Release of Steven and Tiwonge

Madonna posted the following message on the Raising Malawi website:

I have always believed love conquers all - yesterday I got to see it in action.
In the last week over 30,000 of you added your name to mine calling for the release of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga - the Malawi couple sentenced to 14 years hard labor for the 'crime' of homosexuality. With incredible joy, I am writing to share with you that Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika has ordered their release. Steven and Tiwonge were freed on Saturday night.
They have won their freedom and you have been a part of it.
We celebrate this astounding turn of events with Steven, Tiwonge, and the countless Malawians fighting for their release. It is a historic day for Malawi.
Though they are free from prison, sadly their safety and future in Malawi is still unknown. I hope this is just the beginning of our work together.
Human rights injustices continue for so many Malawians facing poverty, disease, and a lack of critical resources. There are still over two million orphans and vulnerable children who need to experience love's embrace.
It is going to take the love and creativity of all of us to bring justice to the people of Malawi.
Thank you for joining me in Raising Malawi.

With great love,
Madonna

Share your thoughts with Madonna on this important day in Malawi at www.raisingmalawi.org/lovewins


Madonna's letter: Right to love and be loved

Madonna has published this letter via her Raising Malawi website asking for readers to pledge their support for the freedom to love:

Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga will spend the next 14 years in a Malawi jail, sentenced to hard labor.
They aren't murderers. They didn't steal. In fact, they didn't commit a crime.
They were convicted of homosexuality.
I call upon the progressive men and women of Malawi - and around the world - to challenge this decision in the name of human dignity and equal rights for all.
Please add your name to mine in a pledge of support for the freedom to love:

http://www.raisingmalawi.org/FreedomToLove

I am shocked and saddened by the recent decision made by the Malawian court. As a matter of principle, I believe in equal rights for all people, no matter what their gender, race, color, religion, or sexual orientation.
This week, Malawi took a giant step backward. The world is filled with pain and suffering; therefore, we must support our basic human right to love and be loved.
I will not sit back and be silent while two men are sentenced to 14 years hard labor simply for loving each other. I hope you will add your name to mine, and speak out to your friends and family on this issue:

Love,
Madonna


Madonna responds to Malawi court decision

Madonna has issued a statement over the Malawi court ruling handed down to a gay couple in the country - for more information on the story visit news.bbc.co.uk

'I am shocked and saddened by the decision made today by the Malawian court, which sentenced two innocent men to prison.
As a matter of principle, I believe in equal rights for all people, no matter what their gender, race, color, religion, or sexual orientation.
Today, Malawi took a giant step backward. The world is filled with pain and suffering; therefore, we must support our basic human right to love and be loved.
I call upon the progressive men and women of Malawi - and around the world - to challenge this decision in the name of human dignity and equal rights for all.'

Fans can add their name to a petition to support Madonna's stand for equal rights in Malawi at www.raisingmalawi.org/statement


Madonna jets out of Malawi

US pop star Madonna jetted out of Malawi on Friday ending a five-day trip which included laying a foundation stone for a new girls school an airport official told AFP.
The singer who was accompanied by her biological children Rocco and Lourdes and her other two children whom she adopted in Malawi flew out of Kamuzu international Airport on a private jet bound for London, the official said.
Madonna's charity, Raising Malawi, is building a 15-million-dollar Girls Academy to educate young Malawi girls from poor backgrounds.
The star already funds several charities in the country, including homes for children with AIDS.
She has built a multi-purpose community centre 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Lilongwe which looks after more than 8,000 orphans.
Late Thursday Madonna, accompanied by Lourdes and adopted daugher Mercy 'Chifundo' James, visited the centre where a local band and a choir seranaded the pop star and villagers thanked her for her help.
'I am happy my small contribution has lifted the lives of many,' Madonna told the cheering villagers.
'It pains me as a mother to see children suffering because they can't get food or clothes. I want to use what I have to make the world a better place where everyone will enjoy life.'
The southern African country is one of the world's poorest nations, with more than half of the population of 13 million living on less than one dollar a day.

From AFP Via Yahoo! News


Madonna and David return to Malawian orphanage

Pop singer Madonna has taken her adopted son David to visit his former orphanage in central Malawi.
Chants of 'welcome home, David!' and 'we love you, David!' could be heard from inside the Home Of Hope as the four-year-old and his mother arrived.
Journalists were barred from the reunion, which took place during Madonna's week-long stay in Malawi.
But the head of the orphanage said Madonna did not want to break David's 'emotional attachment' to the home.
'David spent most of his first days on earth here,' Lucy Chipeta told the BBC. 'We are delighted to have him back.'
'We have preserved his room including his crib,' she added.
As Madonna engaged in discussions with the orphanage's directors, David and his older sister Lourdes played with the young residents.
However, the four-year-old's biological father, Yohane Banda, was nowhere to be seen.
Chipeta refused to comment on why he had not attended.
Madonna, in Malawi since Monday, is scheduled to leave the southern African country on Friday.
The pop star, 51, funds six orphanages through her Raising Malawi charity and is setting up a school for girls on the outskirts of the country's capital, Lilongwe.

From BBC News


Madonna launches a telecommunication initiative

Madonna laid the first brick of her new girls' academy near Malawi's capital Tuesday, in which she encouraged Malawian girls to 'dare to dream,' according to the inscription on the brick.
The pop star said it has long been her dream to build a girls' school. She said she hopes the girls attending the academy will go on to become doctors, lawyers and future leaders of their country.
The $15 million Raising Malawi Academy for Girls is scheduled to open in 2011, and will assist 500 orphaned children.
At the same event, Madonna also launched a telecommunications and fundraising initiative that aims to provide education to children around the world by offering secondary school scholarships and by supporting schools in developing countries in accessing the internet.
'Kids will be able to connect with kids from the other parts of the world,' the singer said. 'This will promote peace throughout the world.'
Telecommunications giant Ericsson will donate computers to various schools in 11 African countries through the United Nations Millennium Village initiative, where model villages are established to demonstrate how the quality of life in African rural areas can be improved through community-led development.
The pop diva looked relaxed as she used a trowel to turn the earth. She wore a long-sleeved striped top, white cotton slacks, a patterned scarf and pale ballet flats. She also wore a black-banded straw hat and dark sunglasses on the sunny day.
Madonna arrived in Malawi on Monday for a weeklong charity tour to inspect projects she established since her first visit in 2006 while filming a documentary on its devastating poverty and AIDS crisis.

From AFP Via Yahoo! News


Madonna lays first brick of her Malawi school

US pop star Madonna on Tuesday laid the first brick at the $15 million (11 million euro) girls' academy that she is building in Malawi, promising to bring quality education to young girls.
The singer and actress laid a stone with an inscription 'Raising Malawi Academy for Girls' and the motto, Dare to Dream.
'It has always been my dream to train women leaders who can help develop the country,' Madonna said during the event.
The colourful ceremony in Chinkhota village, some 15km (nine miles) from the capital Lilongwe, was attended by education officials and curious villagers.
'I grew up as a poor girl with my mother, I had no chance for good education,' Madonna said.
'It is my aim to see Malawian girls get the right education,' she added.
The pop star was accompanied by her biological daughter Lourdes and her two other children, whom she adopted in Malawi.
Madonna, who funds several initiatives in the southern African country, broke ground and planted a tree in October last year for the school, which will admit 500 girls from poor backgrounds.
The school is modelled on a similar academy in South Africa, which was built by US talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
Education Minister George Chaponda lauded Madonna's education project.
'There is continued cooperation between the government and Madonna's charity, which is involved in several initiatives to help end poverty,' said Chaponda.

From AFP Via Yahoo! News


Laying the First Brick at the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls

Madonna wrote this personal message on her blog at the Raising Malawi website ahead of the brick-laying ceremony today in Malawi:

On my first visit to Malawi, I was devastated to meet child after child who had been orphaned by AIDS. Having lost my mother at such a young age, I felt a close connection to these children. Their stories had touched my own.
In a country of 14 million, a staggering one million children have been left alone with the responsibility of raising each other. I returned home knowing the future of Malawi was resting on the shoulders of these orphaned children, and I had to act.
So it is with tremendous joy that I return to Malawi to lay the first brick in the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls. By educating girls we will rebuild this community and raise this nation.
Our academy will educate, protect, and empower 450 young girls who are Malawi’s hope for the future. We will stop the brain drain happening in so many African nations - our students will receive an internationally competitive education while incorporating local values.
As an artist, I know the transformative power of art. Malawi’s culture will be preserved and passed on through the teaching of music, art, and dance in our academy. Once instilled with pride in their homeland, young women will understand the importance of remaining in Malawi and investing in their own communities.
I will share not only my own words of encouragement tomorrow at our ceremony, but also encouragement from women and men around the world who believe that the future of Malawi rests squarely on the shoulders of its girls.
As one Raising Malawi supporter wrote to Malawi's girls, 'You carry the future of your country in your school bags.'
Having seen the determination in the eyes of these children, I know they have the strength to save Malawi - they just need to be given the tools. I am so grateful for the many people who have partnered with me to provide the resources needed, including Jeffrey Sachs, with whom I am launching a new global initiative to provide access to education for all children on all continents.
It is with hope for a bright future that I am here. Tomorrow the brick I will lay is not just the bedrock to a school - it is the foundation for our shared future.

For more information visit www.raisingmalawi.org/blog


Poverty in Malawi 'pains' Madonna

US pop star Madonna Monday said poverty in Malawi 'pains' her during a visit to the birth country of her two adopted children where she will lay the first bricks of a girls' academy she is funding.
'As a mother, it pains me to see women having no access to potable water and good education,' Madonna said after visiting a poverty alleviation project in the Mchinji district where she controversially adopted David Banda in 2006.
Toddler Chifundo 'Mercy' James, adopted last year, and her biological daughter Lourdes accompanied the singer to visit the Millenium Village site.
'It's good to be back in my adopted country,' she told journalists.
The pop star was given a heroes welcome with villagers staging traditional dances and displays, and said she would 'ask friends and fans around the world to join us in making the difference' in Malawi.
Madonna, who funds several initiatives in Malawi, broke ground in October last year for the 15 million dollar school, which will admit 500 girls from poor backgrounds.
The brick-laying ceremony will take place on Tuesday.

From AFP Via Yahoo! News


Madonna arrives in Malawi as building of academy starts

US pop star Madonna arrived in Malawi on Monday ahead of a brick-laying ceremony at the $15 million girls' academy that her charity is building.
'She will lay the first brick at the site' on Tuesday, Anjimile Mtila-Oponyo, chief executive officer for the academy, told AFP.
The singer arrived with her biological children Rocco and Lourdes and two adopted Malawian children David Banda and Chifundo 'Mercy' James, Mtila-Oponyo said.
On Monday, she will visit a poverty alleviation project in the Mchinji district where she controversially adopted Banda from an orphanage in 2006.
The singer will be accompanied by American economist Jeffrey Sachs, a special advisor to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and founder of the project which has 14 villages in 10 African countries.
Madonna, who funds several initiatives in Malawi, broke the ground in October last year for the school, which will admit 500 girls from poor backgrounds.

From AFP Via Yahoo! News


Madonna to visit Malawi school construction

US pop star Madonna jets into Malawi on Monday to inspect construction work of a 15-million-dollar girls' academy by her charity Raising Malawi, the academy's chief executive officer said on Friday.
The singer, who will travel with her biological children Rocco and Lourdes and two adopted Malawian children David Banda and Chifundo 'Mercy' James, will visit the academy on Tuesday, said CEO Anjimile Mtila-Oponyo in a statement.
Madonna broke the ground in October last year for the school, which will admit 500 girls from poor backgrounds on the outskirts of administrative capital Lilongwe.
On Monday, Madonna is also due to visit a poverty alleviation project in a village in the Mchinji district where she adopted Banda amid some controversy in 2006.
Construction of the academy was delayed over a dispute between her charity and some 200 villagers who claimed they were not adequately compensated for land used to build the school.
The government forcibly removed the villagers, who were paid 500,000 dollars in compensation by Madonna's charity.
Malawi is one of the world's poorest nations, with more than half of the population of 13 million living on less than one dollar a day.
The star is funding several charities in Malawi, including homes for children with AIDS. She has built a multi-purpose community centre 50 kilometres from Lilongwe which looks after more than 8000 orphans.

From AFP Via Yahoo! News


Madonna Planning Malawi Trip To 'Reunite Mercy With Family'

Madonna is set to fly to Africa to introduce her adopted daughter Mercy to her biological family, according to a U.K. report.
The Material Girl's four year old spent her formative years in an orphanage in Malawi before the singer took her home last year.
The tot's father James Kambewa launched a legal bid last April to regain custody of his daughter, but gave up his fight just two months later.
But now he's preparing to be reunited with little Mercy. Britain's The Sun claims Madonna is flying the girl, as well as her adopted son David, back to Malawi next week to meet the families they left behind.
A source tells the publication, 'She promised to take them back to their homeland. She sees it as vital they understand their roots.'
'Mercy's meeting with her family will be particularly emotional as it's the first time she's seen them since last summer.'

From contactmusic.com


Madonna raises $11 million for Raising Malawi

Madonna has raised $11 million from Brazilian millionaires for her Raising Malawi Foundation, the daily Rio O Dia reported on Monday.
The US pop star, who visited Brazil to stroke the country's wealthy into giving, notably won an unspecified pledge from the country's richest man, mining magnate Ike Batista, who has an estimated fortune of 7.5 billion dollars.
Madonna, 51, was accompanied during her fund-raising by 22-year-old Brazilian model Jesus de Luz, whom US and British gossip pages have referred to as her 'toy boy'.
Her Raising Malawi Foundation, started in 2006, finances humanitarian projects in Malawi, the southern African country where Madonna has adopted two children.

From AFP Via Yahoo! News


Madonna was shocked by donation response

Michael Berg, the co-founder of Raising Malawi has sent out this message about Madonna's reaction to donations to the charity so far:

Madonna and I just got back from an emotionally charged trip to Malawi.
It wasn't the poverty or hardship in Malawi that shocked Madonna - it was your response to it. When Madonna pledged to match $100,000 in your donations to Raising Malawi, she never dreamt that you'd crush that goal in just a few days!
After the news of your generosity set in, Madonna looked around and said, 'We must do more!' Madonna has upped the stakes and pledged to match an additional $150,000 in donations made in the next week.
Will you make a donation to Raising Malawi? Madonna will match your donation today at www.raisingmalawi.org/doubletheimpact


Madonna leaves Malawi after week's charity tour

Madonna has left Malawi after a nearly weeklong visit with her family, airport and charity officials said Saturday.
Officials said Madonna flew out of the southern African country on Friday. The 51-year-old celebrity arrived in the impoverished country on Sunday accompanied by her four children - daughters Lourdes and Mercy, and sons Rocco and David. Mercy and David were adopted from Malawi.
While in Malawi, she broke ground for her $15 million Raising Malawi Academy for Girls and visited the orphanage that cared for her son David before she adopted him.
Madonna's Raising Malawi, a charity founded in 2006 when she first visited the country, helps feed, educate and provide medical care for some of Malawi's orphans.
Malawi, a nation of 12 million, is one of the poorest countries in the world. About 500,000 children have lost a parent to AIDS.

From AP Via Yahoo! News


Madonna promises light for Malawian village

Madonna has promised electricity to a village in Malawi, the impoverished southern African country where she runs a charity organization and from which she has adopted two children.
Speaking in Mphandula, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Malawi's capital, Lilongwe, the singer said Thursday: 'I know you work in darkness. I will bring you electricity.'
Madonna's Raising Malawi charity already has donated $500,000 for a child care center in the village that feeds and educates 3,000 orphaned children.
Madonna arrived in Malawi on Sunday accompanied by her four children. On Monday she broke ground for her $15-million Raising Malawi Academy for Girls.
About 500,000 children in this nation of 12 million have lost a parent to AIDS.

From AP Via Yahoo! News


Raising Malawi: New message and signed DVDs from Madonna

Madonna has released a new personal video message to raise awareness for her Raising Malawi charity:

My life has been changed. I must share my story with you.
It all began seven years ago when I learned of a small country in Africa called Malawi. Over one million children in this country have been orphaned by AIDS and extreme poverty. Children have been left raising children. Learn more by watching the video message (see below) I created for you and discover my interest and concern for Malawi.
The moment I realized the impact I could have on these children, my life was transformed. With the smallest actions, I have witnessed enormous change - and I'd like to give you the opportunity to help others in need and experience the same kind of fulfillment.
Sign up and join our movement to raise Malawi. I'll send ten (10) people who sign up this week an autographed copy of my documentary film, I Am Because We Are - a movie that will change your life. This offer is open to fans worldwide.

www.raisingmalawi.org/MadonnaDVD

For fans also wanting to donate to Raising Malawi Madonna has pledged $100,000 to match your contributions dollar-for-dollar visit raisingmalawi.org/madonnamatch


Madonna and children visit Malawi orphanage

Madonna and her four children have visited the orphanage in Malawi that looked after one of her sons before his adoption in 2008.
Home of Hope Child Care Centre director Lucy Chipeta said she showed Madonna and her son David his cot during their visit to the orphanage near the Zambian border.
Siblings Lourdes, Rocco and Mercy - who was adopted from Malawi earlier this year - joined their mother on the tour of the orphanage, where Madonna's Raising Malawi charity has built several new buildings.

From Channel 4 News


Press Pictures: Ground breaking in Malawi

Here are the press pictures of Madonna planting a tree and cutting the ribbon at the ground breaking ceremony for the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls in Malawi today (Monday 26 October) in Chinkota, outside Lilongewe. Madonna who is funding the building of the school was the guest of honour at the function.

Pictures from AP / Reuters Via Yahoo! News


Madonna breaks ground on Malawi girls school

American pop queen Madonna on Monday broke ground on a girls academy she is building in Malawi, billed as a 'gift' to the country where she has adopted two children.
The 51-year-old star cut a cake, planted a tree and turned the sod alongside her eldest daughter Lourdes, 13, at a colourful ceremony attended by about 500 locals on the outskirts of Malawi's administrative capital Lilongwe.
According to a brochure for the Raising Malawi Girls Academy, the school will be a 'leadership institution to prepare future women leaders' with 500 boarders including two impoverished girls from the country's 28 districts.
It will 'focus on mathematics and science which traditionally have failed in Malawi and elsewhere', the brochure said.
Madonna's school is modelled on a similar academy built by US television talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
In 2006, the chart-topping musician adopted a baby boy, David Banda, who is now three-years-old. She returned to Malawi this year to adopt a girl, Mercy James.
Madonna is also funding several charities in the small southern African country, including homes for children with AIDS.
Construction of the academy will take two years.

From AP Via Yahoo! News


Madonna arrives in Malawi to launch girls school

Madonna arrived in Malawi Sunday to visit the girls school she is building in the impoverished country where she adopted two children, an official for the star's charity said.
The official who could not be named because he was not authorized to speak on the matter said Madonna arrived at about 2:30 p.m. (1230 GMT; 8:30 a.m. EDT) on Ethiopian Airlines.
The 51-year-old celebrity was accompanied by her four children - Lourdes, 13, Rocco, 9, as well as her two adopted children. Madonna adopted the Malawian-born Mercy, 3, this year and David, 4, in 2008.
The official said Madonna would take part in a groundbreaking ceremony for the school on Monday.
Madonna will also meet with President Bingu wa Mutharika and visit some of the orphanages her charity supports.

From AP Via Yahoo! News


Madonna to launch construction of Malawi girls school

Pop queen Madonna will lead a groundbreaking ceremony next week for a girls academy she is building in Malawi, where she has adopted two children, officials from her charity said Friday.
Madonna is expected to arrive in Malawi on Sunday and the ceremony for the construction of the school, which will be named Raising Malawi Academy for Girls, will take place on Monday, they said.
'The academy seeks to provide a model of relevant and effective education in Malawi while advancing gender equality and women's empowerment,' said an official who requested anonymity.
The school on the outskirts of the administrative capital Lilongwe will prepare girls from poor backgrounds for careers in medicine, education or law, the official said.
The school is modelled on a similar academy built by US television talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
Madonna's trip was confirmed by Anjimile Mtila Oponyo, a local academic who has been hired by the American star to head the academy.
'Madonna believes that given opportunities, these girls will become scientists, lawyers and doctors. She believes in them. Having someone believe in you is important to a girl,' Oponyo said.
In 2006, the chart-topping musician adopted a baby boy, David Banda, who is now three-years-old. She returned to Malawi this year to adopt a girl, Mercy James.
Madonna is also funding several charities in the small southern African country, including homes for children with AIDS.

From AFP Via Yahoo! News


Madonna to lay school's foundation stone in Malawi

Pop star Madonna will visit Malawi on Sunday to lay the foundation stone of a multi-million dollar girls' school she is building, her charity Raising Malawi told Reuters.
The singer, who has adopted two children from the southern African country, is due to arrive on Sunday and attend a brick-laying ceremony in Lilongwe on Monday. The school is expected to cost about $15 million.
'She plans to meet the President Bingu wa Mutharika and together lay a foundation stone for her multi-million dollar girls school,' a staffer at the charity, who declined to be named, said on Thursday.

From Reuters Via Yahoo! News