The one-year-old boy Madonna is hoping to adopt was given a hero's welcome Tuesday as he returned for the first with his new mother to the Malawian orphanage which had been his home. Little David Banda, whose adoption has still to be finalised by authorities in the impoverished southern African nation, smiled and waved to a group of his old friends as he arrived at the "Home of Hope".
Around 200 villagers had converged at the entrance to the orphanage, based some 110 kilometres (70 miles) from the capital Lilongwe, for the arrival of David and the pop star who was also accompanied by her biological daughter Lourdes. The villagers competed for space with a team of around a dozen international news photographers who were trying to get snaps of the singer who is in on a three-day visit to Malawi.
The villagers cheered and clapped as the entourage entered a hall at the orphanage where around 500 orphans had assembled to meet her. Ahead of the arrival, some of the orphans had hurled stones at the photographers who were later brushed aside by the singer's team of bodyguards. Madonna said little to a group of assembled reporters, merely saying:
"It's great to be here". She had been expected to talks with David's biological father Yohane in a private get-together at the orphanage but asked whether the meeting would take place, she answered: "I don't know."
In an interview with AFP last week, Yohane said he would be "be very happy to meet my son" as well as Madonna whom he had only previously briefly encountered at court during the adoption process. Local rights groups have accused Madonna of using her wealth and status to fast-track the adoption process and take David out of the country whom she first set eyes on in October.
Many of those assembled outside the orphanage however said they were delighted that the youngster, whose mother died shortly after childbirth, was to enjoy a lifestyle they could only dream about. Frank Tembo, who lives in the village of Mchinji, said he had come to the orphanage very early in the morning to get a glimpse of David and Madonna. "I feel so happy to have seen David and Madonna," he said. "I am going home to tell my wife that our son, David, is fine and doing well."
The orphanage, which lies at the foot of the Mchinji mountain, has undergone a makeover in advance of the visit with staff painting billboards and sprucing up the garden and the lawns. Madonna's spokeswoman has denied reports that she is also on the lookout in Malawi for a little sister for David and her biological children Rocco and Lourdes.
While in Malawi, Madonna is expected to film scenes for a film about saving Malawian orphans, called "Raising Malawi" in which she is also tipped to interview South Africa's former president Nelson Mandela. On Monday evening, she was given a tour of a village which is without running water and electricity by Jeffrey Sachs, head of the United Nations Millennium Development Project, in a bid to underline the problems facing residents ne of Africa's poorest countries.