DC Embassy's Outreach Program Targets Tangible Benefits for the FSM
Palikir, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services): March 10, 2009 - Approximately two years ago, the FSM Embassy in Washington DC, in coordination with the Home Office of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Palikir, designed what is now known as the Citizen Outreach & Advocacy Program, or COAP for short. This is a modest but deliberate attempt by the Embassy to improve its delivery of consular services to the FSM citizens residing in the US and to strengthen its outreach to the Micronesian communities throughout the US.
While the COAP was designed primarily for the FSM citizens residing on the US mainland, it is hoped that it would serve as a model that could be adapted for use by our consulates in Guam and Hawaii as well. The COAP was put together in view of the ever increasing number of FSM citizens migrating to the US, including Guam and Hawaii, thanks to the habitual residence privileges provided by the Amended Compact treaty between the FSM and the US. These privileges make it easier for FSM citizens to travel to the US, without visa, to reside to attend school and to seek employment and other opportunities.
There are approximately 30,000 FSM citizens residing in the US. Taking advantage of the privileges provided by the Compact, many have engaged in gainful employment in Guam, Hawaii, the Northern Marianas, and the US mainland. The remittance or monies that they send back home to their families have been acknowledged as a significant contribution to the FSM economy. It is estimated that each year for the last several years, the FSM citizens working in the US send home approximately $20 million, a conservative estimate, in the form of remittance. This is one reason that the Embassy and the two consulates have made a determined effort to improve their services to our citizens.
Ensuring that the employment of our citizens is not interrupted or adversely impacted is one of the challenges, for example, to be overcome. In assisting the citizens with their consular difficulties, the Embassy and the consulates hope that our overseas citizens will continue to contribute significantly to the FSM economy. It is also the aim of the Department of Foreign Affairs and its overseas missions to ensure that our citizens abroad continue to be contributing members of their newly adopted local communities and continue to be "goodwill ambassadors" of the FSM. Toward this objective, President Mori himself has launched a program of recognizing the achievements and contributions of our citizens residing abroad.
Since the launching of the COAP two years ago, officials of the Embassy have made site visits to FSM communities in Pasadena and the San Francisco Bay Area in California; Portland, Oregon; Greenville, North Carolina; Kansas City and Neosho, Missouri; Albany, New York; and
Denver, Colorado. The Embassy was involved in the "reconciliation efforts" that were undertaken immediately after the mass shooting in Neosho over a year ago in which three Micronesians were killed. The Embassy played an instrumental role in the establishment of the sister-city relationship between the State of Pohnpei and the City of Neosho as a result of the shocking incident.
The latest COAP activity undertaken by the Embassy was in the form of a series of "town hall meetings" that Mr James A Naich, Deputy Chief of Mission at the DC Embassy, had with the citizens in Orlando and Clearwater in Florida, where there are sizable FSM communities. The world-renown amusement parks in Orlando, such as Disney World, Bush Garden, and Epcott Center, are among the major employers of FSM citizens, particularly Pohnpeans and Chuukese, in the State of Florida.
During the height of the "nursing home fiasco" three years ago, in which many FSM citizens found themselves without jobs, the Embassy stepped in and worked out an employment arrangement with a consortium of hospitals run by the Catholic Church and the Pinellas County in the Clearwater and St Petersburg areas. The "safety net" with the hospital consortium remains in place today, benefiting both the consortium and the FSM community in Clearwater and neighboring St Petersburg.
During his recent visit to Clearwater, DCM Naich also met with officials of the hospital consortium. In the course of the meeting, the hospital consortium made an offer to donate hospital supplies and over-the-counter medicine worth approximately $70,000 to the FSM. A similar offer was made several years back by the hospital consortium to the State of Chuuk shortly after Typhoon Chataan.
Another offer was made during the recent visit to Florida. This offer was in the form of a donation of school supplies and textbooks, worth approximately $10,000, by a school district in Fort Meyer, Florida. While these school and hospital supplies are provided gratis, funding is need to ship them to the FSM. The donors are requested to provide the cost estimates for the freight.
The Embassy has identified a number of specific activities for the COAP for the current year. While there are high hopes for the COAP, it can only be considered a modest effort, owing to limited manpower and other critical resources. There is no doubt, however, that it has received at least the encouragement and support of the top leadership of the FSM executive branch and the FSM Congress.
For further information on this release, please contact:
FSM Office of the President Public Information: Press, Radio, Video P.O Box 34 Palikir Station, Pohnpei, FM 96941 Tel.: (691) 320-2548/2092 Fax.: (691) 320-4356 e-mail: email@example.com http://www.fsmpio.fm/