Charlotte organization seeks local families to host exchange students

Charlotte organization seeks local families to host exchange students

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Next month, a group of young people from Iraq will visit Charlotte to learn about American culture and home life.

It's part of a program designed by the State Department to foster international relations.

Over the years, Jeffrey and Gretchen Brown have welcomed young people from all over the world into their home.

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“Sometimes I think it enriches our lives more than theirs,” Brown said.

As a host family they learn about different cultures, religions, foods and even businesses.

Their daughter said the experience made her a better thinker and communicator.

“If you're still in school you learn things you don't really learn siting in a classroom,” Lindsay Brown said.

Now, international house is looking for more families like the Browns to host youth ambassadors from Iraq.

“They are the brightest of the bright/the cream of the crop in their country,” Program manager Johnelle Causwell said. “They've been vetted by the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They're coming here to learn about diversity and inclusion.”

Causwell called this a friendship building mission that will dispel misconceptions.

“There is a stigma around the Muslim faith right now,” Causwell said, “Our program is aimed at breaking those barriers.”

While some may have second thoughts because of recent world events.

Many believe now is actually the perfect time to sign up.

“I actually think it's the reason why you should do it now because people can't live in fear,” Jeffrey Brown said.

“We've got so much more in common than we have differences. Don't let that hold you back,” Gretchen Brown said.

Fourteen teens from Iraq will be arriving in Charlotte.

International House still needs to secure host families for five of them.

Program coordinators said you don't have to have a big home or be wealthy.

The young visitors are just thrilled to experience everyday life here in the U.S., going to the grocery store or soccer practice.

If you're interested in hosting a family or would like additional information about the program, click here.