Surbiton charity loses school site in Malawi to Madonna
A Surbiton-based charity which helps orphans in Malawi has been pipped to the post by superstar Madonna in its latest building project.
The singer, who recently adopted a child from the African country, snapped up a plot of land near Lilongwe, just before volunteers from the Landirani Trust went to view it.
In an apparent “battle of the charities”, she is understood to want to build a girls’ academy on the land, while the Landirani Trust wanted to build a training village.
Landirani charity worker Nigel Palmer learned the news on a trip to Malawi earlier this month.
His wife Heather Palmer, who set up the charity from her Surbiton home in 2005, said: “We went to see it, being told it was for sale, but when we got there we were told we couldn’t buy it because Madonna wanted to buy it.
“It seemed like it was in a good position but there’s other land so we’ll keep looking.”
She has almost crossed paths with Madonna in Malawi three times in recent years, signing the same guest books and meeting the same people.
The singer successfully adopted her second Malawian child Mercy James, four, at an appeal hearing on June 12.
Mrs Palmer, who is also foster carer for Kingston Council, raised concerns about uprooting the child from her customs and traditions and converting her from Christianity to Kabbalah.
She said: “The children she has seen are in orphanages and are relatively well looked after but there are people out there who are very desperate. She wouldn’t get the opportunity to see that.”
The Landirani Trust took pupils from Tolworth and Tiffin Girls’ Schools to Malawi in April this year and plans to build an HIV clinic and set up a “Saturday club” for orphans to discuss their feelings.
Madonna was not available for comment.
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