For years, Madonna’s “charity” Raising Malawi has been mired in fraud, lies and simple bad business. Madonna has long been accused of using the “charity” as a front for Kabbalah, for exploiting Malawians, for wasting resources and for wasting everybody’s time. While it’s no secret that millions of dollars raised by the charity (at a high-profile fundraiser that brought out many of Madonna’s friends) have gone missing, nor is new information that Madonna assembled a crack team of con artists and grifters to “run” the charity. Back in January, Madonna even announced that her planned $15 million Kabbalah girls’ school had been scrapped, and since then, everything has been in a holding pattern. Now the New York Times has a new detailed report on everything that’s gone wrong – you can read the full piece here. It’s an interesting read about how a hyper-narcissistic celebrity was too oblivious, corrupt, stupid or inept to follow through on any single charitable promise she made, but merely showed up for the photo-ops.
A high-profile charitable foundation set up to build a school for impoverished girls in Malawi, founded by the singer Madonna and fellow devotees of a prominent Jewish mysticism movement, has collapsed after spending $3.8 million on a project that never came to fruition.
The board of directors of the organization, Raising Malawi, has been ousted and replaced by a caretaker board, including Madonna and her manager, officials with the organization said Thursday. Its executive director, who is the boyfriend of Madonna’s former trainer, Tracy Anderson, left in October amid criticism of his management style and cost overruns for the school. These included what auditors described as outlandish expenditures on salaries, cars, office space and a golf course membership, free housing and a car and driver for the school’s director.
Most strikingly, the plans to build a $15 million school for about 400 girls in the poor southeastern African country of 15 million — which had drawn financial support from Hollywood and society circles, as well as the Los Angeles-based Kabbalah Centre International, an organization devoted to Jewish mysticism — have been officially abandoned.
That prospective move set off a fierce backlash when first raised earlier this year, with Malawi officials saying they were stunned and asserting that Madonna was blaming management breakdowns because she had been unable to raise the money she had promised.
“A thoughtful decision has been made to discontinue plans for the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls, as it was originally conceived,” Michael Berg, a co-director of the Kabbalah Centre and the co-founder of Raising Malawi, said Thursday in an e-mail to the center’s members who had contributed to the project. The e-mail announced the replacement of the board of directors.
Madonna has lent her name, reputation and $11 million of her money to the organization that she founded with Mr. Berg. She has been a regular visitor to Malawi, attending at least two ceremonies at what would have been the site of the school in Lilongwe, and has adopted two children from the country.
On Thursday, in conceding the shortcomings of her charity, Madonna issued a statement saying she was still intent on using the organization, which has raised $18 million so far, to advance improvements in the beleaguered nation.
“There’s a real education crisis in Malawi,” she said. “Sixty-seven percent of girls don’t go to secondary school, and this is simply unacceptable. Our team is going to work hard to address this in every way we can.” She and her aides offered no explanation of why, given her high interest in the project, she had not noticed the problems as they began unfolding.
Trevor Neilson, a founder of the Global Philanthropy Group, which Madonna recruited last November amid signs of upheaval at her charity, said he told her that building an expensive school in Malawi was an ineffective form of philanthropy, and suggested instead using resources to finance education programs though existing and proven nongovernmental organizations.
Mr. Neilson said that an examination found that $3.8 million had been spent on the school that will now not be built, with much of the money going to architects, design and salaries and, in one case, two cars for employees who had not even been hired yet.
“Despite $3.8 million having been spent by the previous management team, the project has not broken ground, there was no title to the land and there was, over all, a startling lack of accountability on the part of the management team in Malawi and the management team in the United States,” he said. “We have yet to determine exactly what happened to all of that $3.8 million. We have not accounted for all the funds that were used.”
But in a statement, Madonna said she was pleased with other work that Raising Malawi had done in helping children in Malawi, even as she acknowledged its problems. “While I’m proud of these accomplishments, I’m frustrated that our education work has not moved forward in a faster way,” she said.
Raising Malawi will not disband and will instead use its money in different ways to help the poor in a country where Madonna has sought to become a major philanthropic presence, foundation officials said.
[From The New York Times]
Some of you might suggest that I give Madonna a break, or that things simply happen and it’s no one’s fault. Bullsh-t. Madonna is a smart woman, and she’s been able to make herself into one of the richest, most profitable pop stars and celebrities ever. The fact that absolutely nothing went right, that nothing got done, that none of Madonna’s promises were fulfilled and that millions of dollars were lost, stolen or simply blown on dumb, useless projects, that all proves to me that Madonna simply doesn’t care. That she was just doing all of this for attention, and that it was just some whim, some phase she went through to try to get more attention for being more like Oprah/Angelina/Clooney. She only cared about showing up for the photo-ops. She couldn’t even care enough to donate her own money to the projects she announced, sending out a video asking for donations. Her apathy disgusts me, and her atrophied ambivalence regarding the promises she made to the Malawian people is criminal.
Photos courtesy of WENN.