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With over a million children orphaned by aids in the small, landlocked country of Malawi in south-eastern Africa, Madonna has made it her mission to help. Her efforts, though, are a response of gratitude.

“They help you to get a sense of appreciation for life, for what you have,” says Madonna of the impoverished, yet resilient people.

In return, she is giving Malawi a school. Through the charity she created, Raising Malawi, she has several projects under way, but her greatest one currently is a $15 million boarding school called the Raising Malawi Academy For Girls, scheduled for completion by 2012.

Matching every dollar donated to Raising Malawi, Madonna still has a way to go to fund the complete construction, but she is undeterred. Her charity, after all, is founded on the African philosophy, “I am because we are,” which she translates as “Without you, there is no me.”

“On the one hand I went [to Malawi] and thought, ‘I have to help. I have to save these people,’” Madonna said in a CNN interview. “And then I thought, ‘Wait a minute. I think it’s the other way around. I think they might be saving me.”

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