On my first visit to Malawi, I was devastated to meet child after child who had been orphaned by AIDS. Having lost my mother at such a young age, I felt a close connection to these children. Their stories had touched my own.
In a country of 14 million, a staggering one million children have been left alone with the responsibility of raising each other. I returned home knowing the future of Malawi was resting on the shoulders of these orphaned children, and I had to act.
So it is with tremendous joy that I return to Malawi to lay the first brick in the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls. By educating girls we will rebuild this community and raise this nation.
Our academy will educate, protect, and empower 450 young girls who are Malawi's hope for the future. We will stop the brain drain happening in so many African nations -- our students will receive an internationally competitive education while incorporating local values.
As an artist, I know the transformative power of art. Malawi's culture will be preserved and passed on through the teaching of music, art, and dance in our academy. Once instilled with pride in their homeland, young women will understand the importance of remaining in Malawi and investing in their own communities.
I will share not only my own words of encouragement tomorrow at our ceremony, but also encouragement from women and men around the world who believe that the future of Malawi rests squarely on the shoulders of its girls.
As one Raising Malawi supporter wrote to Malawi's girls, "You carry the future of your country in your school bags."
Having seen the determination in the eyes of these children, I know they have the strength to save Malawi -- they just need to be given the tools. I am so grateful for the many people who have partnered with me to provide the resources needed, including Jeffrey Sachs, with whom I am launching a new global initiative to provide access to education for all children on all continents.
It is with hope for a bright future that I am here. Tomorrow the brick I will lay is not just the bedrock to a school -- it is the foundation for our shared future.