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Malawi Orphan to Madonna: “You Are Our God”

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 James Devaney/

On Tuesday, along with his mother and siblings Lourdes, Rocco and Mercy, David Ciccone Ritchie made his first return visit to the Malawi orphanage where Madonna found him in 2006.

The high point of the family's outing at the Home Child Care Center in Mchinji, Malawi: when David, 4, and his adoptive mother approached his original crib.

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"It was an emotional moment," the center's director, Lucy Chipeta, tells, noting that the pop star, 51, wept. "David is too young to understand . . . but for us who remember the sickly tiny little baby of 2006, it was hard to hold back tears, including Madonna."

"He is so boisterous! I can't believe he is the same chap of 2006," orphanage founder Thomson Chipeta told Us.

And Madonna's celebrity — her Raising Malawi charity has helped fund the orphanage and five others in the country — was not lost on the kids, either.

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"You are our god," one young orphan told her. "Where could we have been without you?"

An onlooker noted that Madonna looked bemused by the comment but "seemed cool with it."

Next, the uniformed children performed a traditional "warrior dance," with David eventually gyrating to the beat as he watched alongside Madonna. Later, he and Mercy played with his old friends and he spoke a few words in Chichewa, the language spoken there. (Mercy, on the other hand, can no longer speak Chichewa. "She is pure American now," an observer said.)

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Later this week, Madonna plans to meet with Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika — and with James Kamebewa, the biological father of Mercy.

"If this young man has a story Madonna wants to hear it. If Mr. Kambewa is the dad, then Madonna won't shield him from Mercy," a Raising Malawi source tells Us.

Malawi is one of the southern African countries greatly devastated with HIV/AIDS. At least 14 per cent of the 13.1 million population has HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS. There are over 2 million orphans, half of them as a direct result of HIV/AIDS.

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