WASHINGTON (AP) -- Melania Trump is planning her first big solo international swing with a trip through several African countries in October.
The first lady told The Associated Press in a written statement Monday that she's looking forward to learning about the issues that children living on the continent face, as well as appreciating Africa's history and culture. She recently launched a U.S.-based effort focused on the well-being of children.
Mrs. Trump plans to travel without President Donald Trump, who was roundly criticized earlier this year after his private comment about "shithole countries" in Africa was leaked to journalists.
Exact dates for the trip and which African countries she will visit remain to be announced.
"This will be my first time traveling to Africa and I am excited to educate myself on the issues facing children throughout the continent, while also learning about its rich culture and history," the first lady said in the statement. "We are a global society and I believe it is through open dialogue and the exchanging of ideas that we have a real opportunity to learn from one another."
She added that she also looks forward to highlighting successful humanitarian work and development programs underway in the African countries.
Her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, said the first lady chose Africa as the destination for her first big solo international trip after she learned about some of the development programs that are underway in many of its countries. Those programs include investments by the U.S. in children's health and education, Grisham said.
The swing through Africa will be the farthest Mrs. Trump has traveled on her own since becoming first lady in January 2017.
Her only other solo international trip came last September, when she flew to Toronto for a day and joined Britain's Prince Harry for an Olympic-style athletic competition he established for wounded service members and veterans.
Mrs. Trump has accompanied the president to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Brussels, France, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom and Finland, for his recent summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Due to medical restrictions placed on her travel following kidney surgery in May, she did not accompany Trump to Singapore for his one-on-one meeting in June with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.