At my host home there is only my host mum, me and another UK volunteer. Our host mum is a paramedic, so is in work a lot. We have three sisters who all live in South Africa. Jamie and I are the only boys our host mum has and she really treats us like her own children. Out of all our host mum’s children I am the youngest, which is the same with my UK family. Joe

My host home is a very busy place! I live with my mum, two older sisters, my niece and my nephew. They are all very welcoming and love to chat! One of the biggest differences between Zimbabwe and the UK is the food. Zim people love to eat. My family are convinced I dislike their food but actually it's amazing although the portions are far too big. My favourite dish so far is chicken stir fry, made by my sister. Emma

I live alone, my mum is based in the UK and the rest of the family are scattered all over Africa and even abroad, typical of an African home. At first I thought once I live alone I'd have nothing to talk about, but I remember my mum who lives directly opposite and my older sister who lives right next door. My cousins live just up the street and my brothers are all around me. That is my family; the Nketa community. They are with me when I'm sad, the elderly show me the way, the younger ones annoy me just like my sister would, my brothers protect me and my sisters guide me. This is my extended family, we are closely knit, so although my mum isn't here she doesn't have to worry about me. Ayanda

In a young man's life, there are three things that help shape his attitude and perception towards life; namely family, friends and education. Frankly, my family has been the chief contributor to my upkeep and development.

Since back in the day, we would come together every evening for family devotions and every Sunday we would go to church together. My family has been so supportive of my education even during the difficult circumstances we have faced as a country, they sacrificed their comforts, resources and finances to send me to school. I will always cherish them for the love, care and discipline shown towards me. My immediate family is made up of my mother, my grandparents and myself. By virtue of being the youngest, I do almost every house chore from cleaning the house to washing the dishes. I love my family. Sasha

I come from the Sibanda family, a totem for a ‘lion’. Defining family is broad in an African setting because family is compromised of the biological, extended and the community. At home I stay with my mum, younger sister, littler brother (from my uncles’ side) and my uncle. As a first born, I am responsible for the cooking and sometimes being a role model. I have a huge extended family consisting of my grandparents and four aunts, who live further from my home, but the essence of love and togetherness within us surpasses not living together. Family does not stop there, because I come from the Tshabalala community, which consists of loving neighbours, friends who become mother, fathers, brothers and sisters. This is my life, a life of FAMILY which surpasses biology but extends to neighbours and the community to make a beautiful me. Jackie

There are lots of differences between my UK family and my Zimbabwe family. Firstly, in the UK, I live with my mum, step dad and brother. My Zim family is small also including my mum, my dad and grandmother.

In Zimbabwe it is generally the younger family members who take care of the older family member. The grandparents live at home with their children and sometimes grandchildren, who care for their elders. The African family tends to be large and often includes members who are not necessarily related. In the street you can hear people calling each other sister, brother and mamma, which is quite different from the UK's Sir/Madam. It definitely feels like the community is the family here, which is why I think Africa is so warm and welcoming; you're already part of the family! Olivia

As Team Leader, I've had the opportunity to meet all of the host families and see the difference in family structure. I live with one other UK volunteer and our host Mum, who, luckily for us, seems to be the most generous! She definitely spoils us and rarely lets us help around the house. We are making more of an effort to do things before Mum tells us to stop though.

I like to stop by the other host homes and see how they are all getting on. One family has a more traditional structure, where the father seems to make more decisions for the household. The other host family is much larger and it is great to visit the kids in the house.

It’s very different for us to be so welcomed into each host home and to be told to treat them like our own home. We are told to come in whenever we like and I often visit the other homes without invitations, and sometimes enter without even knocking! Neighbours and other community members all seem to be everyone’s extended family too; I’m often greeted on the street as ‘brother’. 

Despite this, my own host sisters all live abroad; two in South Africa and one in Swaziland. Some also have their own children, and my host Mum has introduced me to them on the phone.

I notice similarities and differences between my Zim and UK families. Some of my UK family live overseas (also in South Africa!), which my host Mum was surprised to hear. However, while most of my friends would invite me into their home when I arrive, I almost always contact them first and make an effort to leave if I have disturbed them in the middle of a meal or other occasion. I find in Zimbabwe that you can disturb a family at any time and be urged to stay and talk, whatever the situation. Jamie

Back home in London, I live with my mum and sister but here in Zimbabwe, my host family consists of my host mum, Mrs Ncube, host dad Mr Ncube, grandma (‘gogo’) and a maid, aunt Ncube. I have noted a few differences having been here for a month. One of the challenges I've faced here is communicating with my host family and overcoming the barrier of familiarity and comfortability. We've had to learn what we can and can’t do and what is expected of us, e.g. cooking, cleaning, everyday chores, etc. Back home my sister and I take turns with the dishes and cooking each week, but here our host mum likes us to do it after we cook, especially if the maid isn’t home or is off the next day. Our host mum has informed us that she finds it hard to understand us at times because she thinks we speak too fast. Another thing that’s different, which our host mum mentioned, is that in their culture, the youth greet the elders first as a sign of respect, so initially they may not say anything to us or would wait for us to greet them first, which I am just starting to get the hang of. Sade

In a twinkling of an eye, days pass one after the other like a flip chart being rolled from one subject to another. Each day is diverse and peculiar to the other. Some are good whereas others may not be that good, but one thing that keeps me going and smiling is my family because through thick and thin, I am in sweet rest under the shadow of its wings. Vernon

Written by ICS Team MAC, in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe