By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Officials with the city of Joplin, the Joplin School District and Mercy Hospital have been invited to visit the United Arab Emirates.
Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean confirmed Tuesday that an invitation had been received from the U.A.E. Embassy and a trip is in the works.
Colbert-Kean said she and City Manager Mark Rohr will go on behalf of the city. The trip is being planned for Friday, March 8 through March 15.
Superintendent C.J. Huff said the district plans to send two school board members, Anne Sharp and Michael D. Landis; Kim Vann, director of community development; and Terri Hart, director of curriculum, assessment and instruction. A fifth district representative could possibly still be named, he said.
Gary Pulsipher, president and CEO of Mercy Hospital Joplin, will go on behalf of the hospital.
Colbert-Kean said the city had agreed to publicly announce the trip and its details later this week jointly with the embassy. The U.A.E. is paying for the trip expenses.
She said the invitation came as a gesture of thanks from the U.A.E. for the hospitality shown Ambassador Yousef al Otaiba when he visited here last year. He brought a $5 million donation from the U.A.E. to be used toward construction of a pediatrics and neo-natal unit at Mercy Hospital, which is under construction.
The U.A.E. also provided a $1 million grant to the Joplin School District after the 2011 tornado to buy laptops for use by high school student because of the loss of teaching materials.
Additionally, a team of volunteers from the Takatof, a U.A.E .nonprofit organization that works with Habitat for Humanity, worked on a 10-home blitz build that started the Habitat effort to help Joplin rebuild in October 2011.
The U.A.E. has a history of giving foreign aid to countries such as the U.S.
There was a $100 million contribution made to the Hurricane Katrina recovery.
When the ambassador spoke at the Mercy announcement, he said his country feels a moral obligation to help others and that such donations serve as a good example of internation relations.
“People of the U.A.E. now know more about the people of Joplin, and I think the people of Joplin know more about the people of the U.A.E., and in my world, that’s a good thing,” Otaiba said.
Colbert-Kean said she believes in building relationships. “Whether it is local, state or federal or with another country, it just shows we’re all in this together.”
Staff writer Emily Younker contributed to this report.
Where is the U.A.E?
The United Arab Emirates consists of seven states on the Persian Gulf next to Saudi Arabia. The capital is Abu Dhabi. it is one of the United States’ single largest export markets in the Middle East and North Africa region.