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Changing Minds About the Middle East and Islam in Wisconsin

My name is Maad Sharaf; I'm from Yemen living in Wisconsin.

Before going home, I wanted to say thank you so much my host family and that’s by nominating them as the best family in the whole world. If I wrote a book about them, I’ll never finish my great stories that I spent with them, my wonderful experiences that I had during my year in the US, and my lessons that I learnt from each one of them. Before I came to the US, I was expecting to live in a farm with two old parents, but suddenly, I was so amazed when they told me that you got a 3 younger host brother with two wonderful young parents. My whole family in Yemen was so happy for me because I have 3 younger brothers in my home country and almost the same ages.

My host family has a huge impact in my life that I’ll never forget. They always tell me that I can make a difference in the world by living here with different kind of people from different countries in the world and I think they also made a difference when they decided to host me. I didn't think that I could find people who could understand me like they can, sometimes I look to their eyes and how they live, and although that there are a lot of differences between them and my family in Yemen, I think they have a lot of similarities of how they love me and encourage me to do the best.

I remember during the International Education Week my host mom saying “Maad, that’s your chance to explain to the people how you live and where did you come from and I can’t see anybody win this except you”. At the time, I felt more than proud of how she gave me her trust. I remember her calling everybody she knows to ask them if they are interested in my presentation and arrange a time with them to go with me and talk about Yemen and Islam. At the beginning I was wondering about why she’s doing that, but after living with her, I discovered that she just likes to make this world a peaceful place for everybody to live with each other in peace.  My host dad, he just loves talking about how he likes this exchange programs because it changes the people’s minds about the Middle East and Islam, and our minds about different people from different religions. But my 3 younger host brothers, they are just the music of the house. They always remind me of my brothers back home.

This small lovely family changed my whole life and added a lot of fun in it. They gave me the opportunity to see 20 states in the country, they gave me the encouragement to do whatever I believe and make this world peaceful, and they gave me trust that I can do anything impossible by working hard.  This wonderful family should be honored for giving the WORLD their time to help other people to make it a peaceful place for everybody, no matter where they came from.