NEW YORK, March 17 /PRNewswire/ -- A goodwill mission to Morocco this week will extend a hand in friendship from U.S. citizens to people in a predominantly Islamic country. Sister Cities International is sending a "Partnership & Peace Tour" to Morocco for a historic ten-day mission to build sister city ties. The delegation's forty-two members will be led by Mary Jean Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight Eisenhower and CEO of People-to-People International, and Sherman Banks, President of the Sister Cities International Board of Directors. Both People-to-People-International and Sister Cities International trace their origins to a White House Summit on Citizen Diplomacy convened by President Eisenhower in 1956. The delegation will visit Rabat, Fez, Marrakech and Casablanca. They will hold meetings with several key officials seeking to set up new sister city ties and strengthen existing linkages. More than 150 wheelchairs purchased with donations from throughout the United States, will be distributed to needy residents during the trip. As part of the 50th Anniversary of the citizen diplomacy movement in 2006, the delegation will hold a conference in Casablanca with 150 attendees titled, "Reaching Out to Your Global Neighbors Through Citizen Diplomacy: Promoting Islamic - U.S. Relationships." The delegation's visit to Morocco is part of the Islamic Peace & Friendship Initiative. After the tragic terrorist attacks on the U.S. in 2001, Sister Cities International launched an outreach effort to the Islamic world that resulted in a 33% increase in U.S. communities partnering with the Middle East, an 18% increase in partnerships with Africa, and a 3% increase in Eurasian sister city relationships. There are currently three sister city relationships between the United States and Morocco. Casablanca partnered with Chicago, Illinois in 1992. Agadir, Morocco linked with Miami, Florida in 1995 and with Oakland, California in 2004. WHO: Mary Jean Eisenhower, CEO, People-to-People International Sherman Banks, President, Board of Directors, Sister Cities International WHAT: "Partnership & Peace Tour - Morocco" begins its journey for goodwill and understanding WHEN & WHERE: March 17, 2006, 5:00am - 12:00pm, New York, NY March 18-25, 2006 - Morocco (202.347.8630 ext. 8251 for scheduling) About Mary Jean Eisenhower Mary Jean Eisenhower, President and CEO of People to People International (PTPI), was born in Washington, D.C. during her grandfather, Dwight Eisenhower's first term as U.S. President. Since joining PTPI, Mary has visited more than 40 countries. Missions have included everything from meeting first families to distributing food to cultural and humanitarian exchanges. In 1999 she started PTPI's International Friendship Fund inspired by an orphanage in Morocco. The fund is a way for people to help the friends and facilities they visit throughout the world and help our Chapter network assist each other. Currently she is focused on a number of projects, including a trip to Sri Lanka for the dedication of three new schools, made possible by contributions to PTPI's Tsunami Relief Fund and the Peace Camps and Global Peace Initiatives in Egypt and Russia for youth and adults in 2007. Other focuses include the eradication of landmines, disability issues, the Operation Iraqi Children program and Chapter development. Recently she completed a Fellowship at Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA. About Sherman Banks Sherman Banks was elected president of the Board of Directors for Sister Cities International in 2004, and joined the board in 2002. Banks has focused much of his attention on the Islamic Peace & Friendship Initiative, working to forge friendly citizen-to-citizen ties between the U.S. and predominantly Islamic countries. He spearheaded the development of international tourism for the Little Rock (Arkansas) Convention & Visitors Bureau and served as International Development Director for the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. He served as president of the Central Arkansas Council for International Visitors for five years in the early 1990s. About Sister Cities International Representing more than 2,400 communities in 132 countries, Sister Cities International (http://www.sister-cities.org) is a citizen diplomacy network creating and strengthening partnerships between the U.S. and communities abroad. Begun in 1956 after a White House summit where U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower called for people-to-people exchanges, sister city partnerships are tailored to local interests and increase global cooperation at the grassroots level. Sister Cities International promotes peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation by focusing on sustainable development, youth and education, arts and culture, humanitarian assistance and economic growth programs.
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