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Madonna's Malawi Project Leader Forges Ahead with New Plan

Madonna
Singer Madonna attends the Material Girl clothing line launch at Macy's Herald Square on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010 in New York. AP

(CBS/AP) Logistical problems and other concerns have led Madonna to abandon her plan to build a girls-only school in Malawi, but the new leader of her effort says the superstar instead plans many more schools with educational groups already working toward that goal.

"Basically, what we'd be doing is expanding the ability for a group of nonprofits to provide education to more kids," Trevor Neilson said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday.

PICTURES: Madonna in Malawi

Neilson, a former executive with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, joins the Raising Malawi project as a partner of the Global Philanthropy Group, a leading international organization that works with organizations and governments around the globe.

He and several other experienced philanthropy experts became part of Raising Malawi's revamped team in November.

The Kabbalah Centre, once a part of the project, is no longer involved, Neilson noted. Madonna has practiced Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism, for years.

The bigger changes involve the scope of Madonna's educational plans in the impoverished African country. The superstar, who has adopted a boy and a girl from Malawi, had initially planned to build a school for girls, most of whom don't get the opportunity to go to school.

After land disputes between villagers and the government, it will forge ahead with a new strategy.

Instead of creating a Raising Malawi school, the new plan is to use Raising Malawi's resources to partner with other NGOs, or non-governmental organizations, already working to provide a better education in Malawi.

He also added that contrary to reports, the charity is still working very closely with the government, and that Madonna called the president's office and explained her new plans.

New schools could be built by the end of this year, and the educational efforts, while geared toward girls, will not exclude boys, he said.

Neilson said Madonna would go to the region "soon" and stressed that she was still fiercely committed to the country: He said Raising Malawi has dispersed $13 million toward charitable efforts over the last few years.

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