In the world of entertainment, only a few stars are big enough to be known far and wide by just a single name. And it turns out that one of the biggest of those one-name stars has a whole second calling … a mission of hope and healing in a place that badly needs it. Tracy Smith reports our Cover Story:
Malawi, a landlocked African nation of 17 million, is about the size of Pennsylvania, and one of the poorest countries on Earth. Disease is rampant here — and pediatric health care is almost unheard of. But this past July, Malawi’s children got some help.
To you and me, she’s Madonna. But to people in the city of Blantyre, she’s the lady behind the new hospital, and she was there for opening day, along with Mercy, Esther, Stella and David, four of her six children (and all from Malawi).
It was the first time she’d seen the finished building. “Oh my gosh, what a beautiful hospital!” said Madonna. “It’s the brightest, most cheerful hospital entrance I’ve ever seen.”
The Mercy James Pediatric Surgery Center (named for her adopted daughter) has new operating rooms and a children’s ICU.
“Pretty amazing,” she said. “Yeah, it’s gorgeous. It’s kind of awesome. I mean, if you’re gonna get sick, come here.”
And there are few other options: hospital beds in Malawi are scarce, and children often have to compete with adults for thinsg like intensive care.
Madonna didn’t know much about Malawi when she made her first trip there in 2006. “I did have to look it up on a map, I’m not gonna lie,” she said. “This is a very small country, bordered by Mozambique and Zambia. And it was the best trip I ever made.”
“Why?” Smith asked.
“Because it changed my life.
Horrified by what she saw (“[The] orphanage is crowded and dirty. It felt like a small city run by kids”), Madonna made a documentary, “I Am Because We Are,” and went on to found Raising Malawi, a charity dedicated to child education and health care.
She also met, and adopted, a critically-ill baby, David Banda, and a girl, Mercy James, after clearing legal hurdles for both: “I made that promise to Mercy that I was gonna come back and make sure that she didn’t grow up in an orphanage.”
This year she adopted twin girls. Madonna also has two older children — Lourdes,…