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Meet the 2022 Winner of the Host Family of the Year Award – The Maha Family

As we do every year, we are happy to be announcing the winner of the Apex Social Host Family of the Year Award. 

We are happy to announce, that the Host Family of the Year Award 2022 goes to the Maha Family. 

The Maha Family is a family of 4 located in Alabama and was nominated for the award by their Care Professional Anne-Claire with these loving words: 

A few days ago, I was looking at old pictures on my phone and I found a video of myself. This was the video that I sent to my friends to tell them about my first interview with a host family. I had tears of happiness. I knew immediately that I wanted to learn more about them, to share more moments with them and to live with them. We matched a few days later. 

So, when I received this email asking about nominating them for the Host Family of the Year contest, the first thing that went through my mind was: “It’s definitely what they are!”. I started thinking about how I would describe them, to make sure that you’ll understand how they take good care of me, the experiences that I have had with them, and how much they teach me. How can I even express all those things in only 800 words? 

For the last 2 months, I live with Michele, Julian, Abram and Juda. That’s not enough time for many travel stories or adventures, but surely enough to know that the decision that I made a few months ago was absolutely the right one! My first few days with Juda, who is 11 years old, were actually not that easy. He is becoming a teenager and at times prefers to do things alone than with me. At first, it made me sad, but when I talked with Michele, she advised me to stay patient, to not give up and she said something that I’ll never forget, I quote: “You can’t control how people are with you, but you can control your feelings and reactions to it”. This mindset really helped me a lot! Aside from Juda, I spend most of my time with Abram who is 14 and has autism. Even though some days are hard, especially if he gets upset or if I don’t understand him because he is a nonverbal, he is such a sweetheart! He is my best friend. He asks me for tickles every day and we spend much of our time simply just laughing and being happy. He likes standing on my foot so we can dance together. When I tell him stories of my life, he stares at me and smiles. He can only say a few words, and now, one of those is my name, and it makes me so proud of him! As a physical therapist, I do many exercises and games with him, which always includes a ball as it’s his favorite toy! We also do puzzles and other craft activities- for instance, we a piñata for his previous au pair who spent her birthday with us!

In my eyes, the best host family is not the perfect one, whereby everything goes well every day, because that’s simply not how life is. Rather, the best host family is a family who always supports, helps, and pulls you upward. It is a family that helps you get better through advice, challenges and of course, love. Juda and Abram do it through daily life situations, whereas Michele and Julian do it through advise they give to me and by being my examples. Sometimes when I feel sad or homesick, without even noticing it, they help me out simply by their presence. They support me in my au pair life but most of all they help so many other people and especially those with invisible disabilities. Through KultureCity, the nonprofit organization they founded, they make the never possible, fighting for inclusion, acceptance and sensory accessibility. Besides leading KultureCity, they are both are doctors at the hospital and Michele also takes part in marathons or ironman races. But above all, they are parents who love spending time with their children by going to basketball games, to concerts, or simply going for a walk or watching TV together. Whenever I want, I am always welcomed to spend these quality times with them. They have already given me incredible opportunities, for instance, having dinner with the famous actor Randal Park or going to Disney World by private flight. I can’t wait to find out what this adventure with my host family holds in the future. I’m very grateful for these crazy opportunities that they have given me, but for me, the most important thing about them and our relationship, is that I feel include in their family- they treat me like family, and I feel even more grateful for that!

My host parents are also Malaysian. This has allowed me to discover the Asian culture, besides discovering American culture, by eating Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, or Malaysian food. One of my goals is to learn how to eat with chopsticks before I leave. And, did you know that in their culture, fish symbolizes prosperity and noodles are for longevity? On my end, I try to bring them a bit of French culture, especially by cooking some of my favorite dishes. I feel very proud when they tell me I must open a restaurant in France! Today, they are not only “a host family”, but they are my host family, my American family. I feel so glad to be a part of their family and am already so sad to think about the day when I will have to say goodbye.Julian, Michele, Juda, Abram, thank you. Thank you so much for being who you are. 

Thank you to the Maha Family and to Anne-Claire!

We’d also like to thank our two runner ups for the Host Family of the Year Award, as well as their Care Professionals for nominating their PROaupair Host Family of the Year: 
The Acosta Family from San Diego, CA
The Brown Family from San Francisco, CA

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