Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of the Vice President of the United States Joe Biden, visited Luang Prabang on July 22 as part of her two-day visit to Laos. She was accompanied by Catherine Russell, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.
During the visit, Dr. Biden’s toured Wat Xieng Thong, a recipient of grants from the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP), which symbolizes the United States’ commitment to preserving Laos’ cultural heritage. Recognizing the importance of Wat Xieng Thong and the urgent need to preserve it, the United States Government awarded $655,000 to the Department of World Heritage Luang Prabang to restore the temple buildings and preserve the intricate gold stencil decorations and mosaics throughout the complex. Wat Xieng Thong is one of 16 AFCP projects in Laos that range from large projects to restore Lao temples, to smaller projects that are equally significant – including the preservation of historic manuscripts and museum collections, and the documentation of the unique cultural traditions of Lao minority groups.
A lifelong teacher and strong supporter of education, Dr. Biden also visited the U.S. supported Library Boat program in Luang Prabang. Operated by Luang Prabang Public Library and Cooperative Learning International, the program has two boats that bring hundreds of books to children in more than 75 remote villages.
While in Luang Prabang, Dr. Biden met with the Director of the World Food Program in Laos, Ms. Sarah Gordon-Gibson, to learn about the U.S. Food for Education program. In November 2014, Ambassador Clune, announced that the program would provide $27 million to assist more than 170,000 children in Laos over the next three years. Food for Education has dramatically increased school attendance rates in remote villages by providing children with a much-needed lunch or mid-morning snack.
Prior to visiting Luang Prabang, Dr. Biden visited Vientiane where she met with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Sports, Dr. Phankham Viphavanhnh, delivered a speech at the Lao Youth Union, visited the Lao Disabled Women’s Development Centre, and delivered remarks at a reception for prominent Lao women leaders.
Dr. Biden is the first White House official to ever visit Laos. This historic visit demonstrates the United States’ continued commitment to expanding its relationship with Laos. The two countries are celebrating the 60th anniversary of their bilateral relationship this year.