President Tour of Mali Speaks at Peace Corps Headquarters

June 25, 2003

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 25, 2003 –Yesterday, Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez welcomed President Amadou Toumani Touré of Mali to Peace Corps headquarters as the first official stop on the President’s U.S. visit.

On behalf of the Malian people, President Touré expressed his country's profound gratitude and respect for the work Peace Corps has done in Mali and for the volunteers who, he noted, live in the same villages as the Malian people, sleep on the same mats, eat the same food, and get bitten by the same mosquitoes.

In the early 1990s, President Touré worked with Peace Corps volunteers in the areas of water, health, and guinea worm eradication in the Mopti Region of Mali while presiding over a group dedicated to improving the Malian environment. President Touré has also been recognized for his contributions in African Peacekeeping efforts and has collaborated with many distinguished international humanitarians.

“Over 2,500 Americans have spent two years of their lives working and living with Malians across this culturally rich and infinitely fascinating country. These former volunteers, Mr. President, who have such a strong affinity for Mali as a result of their experience, are indeed Mali’s lifetime ambassadors throughout the United States, “ stated Director Vasquez during the ceremony.

President Touré is visiting the United States to participate in the 37th Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which will highlight Mali as one of three featured cultures. His visit marks the third head of state to speak at Peace Corps headquarters within the last year. He is the second President of Mali to visit Peace Corps headquarters; President Konare visited in 1998.

Sponsored in part by the Friends of Mali, a returned Peace Corps volunteer group dedicated to the promotion of the Peace Corps mission in Mali, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival Features “Mali: From Timbuktu to Washington, D.C.” In addition to emphasizing the close relationship between Mali and the United States, the exhibit celebrates the deeply rooted history of the country and highlights the talents of Mali craftsmen and artists.

Currently, 180 Peace Corps volunteers are working within Mali to confront imminent food shortages due to a rapidly growing population and frequent droughts. Volunteers strive to improve domestic food production, as well as find solutions to difficulties in water availability, environmental conservation, and micro-enterprise development. Volunteers are also providing education on preventative health care and HIV/AIDS awareness.

Since 1961, more than 168,000 Volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health and HIV/AIDS education, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a two-year commitment.

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