Welcome Mr. President, honored guests and committee members. I have had the pleasure of coordinating the Community Connections Program at Southeastern Community College in Whiteville, North Carolina since 1998. Community Connections is a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State that offers home stay-based, three-to-five week practical training opportunities in the U.S. for entrepreneurs, local government officials, legal professional and non-government organization leaders from the Eurasian countries.This program has been in existence since 1994 and has hosted approximately 10,000 participants from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Kazakhstan and Armenia.

In 1996, the Community Connections Programs started recruiting participants from Moldova and since that time 890 Moldovans have completed internships throughout the United States. North Carolina has three hosting organizations representing the Community Connections Program - The International House of Metrolina in Charlotte, Research Triangle International Visitors Council in Raleigh and Southeastern Community College in Whiteville. Through these three organizations, North Carolina has hosted a total of 189 interns from Moldova in various business and professional sectors.Areas of interest have included banking, medical, agriculture, business development and consulting, retail sales, and education.

Charlotte has hosted 20 business entrepreneurs from Moldova and plans to work with a professional business development group in May, 2003. Raleigh has hosted 30 business entrepreneurs and plans to have another business group later in 2003.We, at Southeastern Community College, have hosted 139 Moldovans since 1997 and look forward to having 30 moreinterns in 2003.

Our community has been greatly enriched from the sharing of Moldovan traditions and exchanging of ideas. We are a rural area and have enjoyed the agriculture groups that have visited our homes and farms. We envy you your knowledge of winemaking and the rich soil that grows your wonderful vegetables, fruits and flowers.

Mr. President, we look forward to continuing our relationship with Moldova through the Community Connections Program for many years to come. After visiting Moldova and working with past program participants, I have learned that Moldovas greatest natural resource is its people. All participants on program have shared with our communities their love and deep commitment to Moldova. Each and every participant has been a wonderful ambassador for your country. Mr. President, you can be very proud!!