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Madonna pledges to build 4 new schools in Africa in 2018 with her Raising Malawi charity

Madonna is getting “Into the Groove” of 2018 — with some charity work!

On Thursday, the pop icon announced that her philanthropic foundation, Raising Malawi, will build four new schools in the southeast African country, where the organization has already built 10 schools.

“Let’s start 2018 off right!” Madonna, 59, captioned an Instagram post. “I’m challenging you all to stand up, come together and BE the CHANGE you want to SEE in the World!! This year we’ll begin by building 4 brand new schools in the Kasungu District of #Malawi with @RaisingMalawi and @buildOn!! That’s 14 schools in total that will help thousands of kids get the education they so rightfully deserve!”

Madonna has a long history with the nation, as she adopted four of her six children from Malawi: David Banda, 12, Mercy James, 11, and 6-year-old twins Stella and Estere, whom she brought home last February. (The Grammy winner is also mom to Lourdes Leon, 21, and Rocco Ritchie, 17.)

The “Living for Love” singer’s relationship with the African country began in 2006, when she launched Raising Malawi. And this summer, all of Madonna’s efforts culminated in the charity’s biggest undertaking yet. In July, the pop star asked PEOPLE to join her and her family in Malawi for the opening of the Mercy James Centre for Pediatric Surgery and Intensive Care, the first children’s hospital in the nation.

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Madonna in Malawi to visit hospital her charity is funding

Madonna, currently visiting Malawi, is planning to visit the construction of a children's wing at a hospital that her charity is funding in the southern African country's largest city, Blantyre.

The pop star has been in Malawi for a week during which she has met with President Peter Mutharika and health minister Peter Kumpalume. Madonna, who has adopted two children from Malawi, is scheduled to visit Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital on Sunday (July 10) to view the pediatric unit where construction started in May 2015 and which is expected to open in early 2017.

"This new facility is the first pediatric surgery and intensive care unit in any Malawi hospital. It will have an enormous impact on saving the lives of children," said Madonna, in a statement released to The Associated Press. "In addition to raising the quality and availability of health care, we are also preparing for the future by training more Malawian medical staff in specialized pediatric care."

The children's unit will include Malawi's first pediatric intensive care unit, three operating rooms dedicated to children's surgery, a day clinic and a 50-bed ward. It will enable Queen Elizabeth hospital to double the number of surgeries for children and will provide critical pre-operative and post-operative care.

Raising Malawi was founded in 2006 to address the poverty and hardship endured by Malawi's orphans and vulnerable children. Raising Malawi partners with local organizations to provide Malawian children and their caregivers with critical resources including education and medical care.

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Madonna and All 4 of Her Kids (Yes, Rocco, Too) Visit Malawi

Malawi holds a special place in Madonna’s (rebel) heart, so her ticker must be bursting right now as she visits the country with all four of her children.

With her custody drama with ex-husband Guy Ritchie over Rocco behind her, the Material Girl, 57, is happily documenting her summer adventures in Africa with her brood, Lola, Rocco, David Banda, and Mercy James — the latter two of whom were born there. On Friday, Madge, who tries to visit Malawi at least once a year, posted photos from the Home of Hope Orphanage in Mchinji, where David lived as a baby.

This is the family’s second stop in Africa. Prior to this, they spent time in Kenya, where Madonna was working in collaboration with SHOFCO (Shining Hope for Communities). In addition to meeting some of the people the organization is helping — like a woman named Mama Sofie, who started a business to provide for her 14 children after her husband was killed in a political uprising — they built a playground and helped work on a primary school that is being built for girls.

Madonna first visited the desperately impoverished Malawi, which is south of Kenya on the eastern side of Africa, a decade ago — in April 2006 — at the suggestion of a businesswoman there who told her that the country was in crisis. On her second trip, Madonna adopted David, who turns 11 in September. In 2009, she won a court battle to adopt daughter Mercy. (The adoption continues to be plagued by drama as members of the girl’s extended family, who came out of the woodwork after the girl was adopted by the millionaire songstress, routinely speak out against it.)

Through her Raising Malawi charity, Madonna funds several orphanages there and during this trip will be looking in at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, where a 50-bed pediatrics ward is being built.

Madonna’s efforts in Malawi haven’t always been appreciated. In 2013, then-president Joyce Banda trashed her when plans for an academy for girls were scrapped because of allegations of mismanagement. Banda’s administration claimed Madonna bullied state officials. Banda was ousted in 2014 and the new president, Peter Mutharika, repaired relations with the superstar.

Things appear back on track — and that’s a good thing.


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