Grace Munini, 59, lives in Loitokitok, southern Kenya, with her husband Ruben. Her four grown-up children now have families of their own, and she has opened her home to participants of ICS.
Mama Helen, as she is known to the volunteers, is a busy woman: aside from hosting, she farms potatoes, maize and beans, sells milk from her cattle to neighbours, and runs a small shop which is stocked with local basics from rice to soap.
The experience of hosting has taught me a lot. You realise that, despite our different skin tones, we are all the same. I’ve never argued with any of the volunteers who have stayed with me.
I go with them to church, I teach them the importance of cleanliness and which foods are good to eat. We enjoy each other's company. I tell the volunteers to be free and if they have any concerns, to let me know.
The volunteers who stay with me don’t go hungry. If they haven’t eaten enough I tell them to add more food to their plate. I teach them how to make chapati, ugali (a starchy staple made from maize flour and water) and how to slaughter a chicken. We make mukimo (a typical dish containing maize, potatoes, peas and salt) in the evenings. I even show them how to farm. They learn to dig, how to make a barbecue, how to cook goat meat.
Before I receive a volunteer, I pray to God that their heart is pure like mine. Then I welcome my guests and make sure they have a comfortable bed and good food. I take care of them. Volunteers are very obedient and have a lot of love.
I didn’t go to school because my mother died when I was a baby. I never saw her face. I taught myself to read. I can hear and understand English, I just can’t speak it. But the language barrier hasn’t been a problem.
People have returned home understanding my language. One volunteer went back to his country knowing Maasai. He wrote letters in Maasai and came back here with his family - his father, mother and two brothers. They stayed here for two weeks. I always tell those who stay with me to come back and visit.
One volunteer called Ben went back to the UK and then returned to Kenya. He came back for his girlfriend, who lives here - she’s Kalenjin [a Kenyan tribe]. If he came back here I would welcome him. We have many rooms.
Have I ever wanted to visit the UK? I want to know where my volunteers come from. I find it hard when they go home. Sometimes [many] people leave on the same day. I always cry when they leave.
This interview was conducted with the help of an interpreter.
Emma Warren is a freelance journalist and editor.