Living With a Host Family

All the volunteers with Volunteer Abroad Kenya are adequately accommodated by different host families. Living with host families is one of the most meaningful and rewarding experiences that you can get when volunteering abroad. Apart from being treated as one of the family members by the host family, you also get to learn more about Kenya by sharing with them.

Being with a host family comes with its own responsibilities. For one, you will be expected to act respectfully and responsibly. This means adhering to the time schedules and observing certain routines like being together during mealtimes and not coming home in the middle of the night.

The host family is tasked with the responsibility of providing you with a room where you will be sleeping in (usually shared between two volunteers) and meals. You will therefore get to enjoy sumptuous local delicacies like Ugali (made from water and maize flour), matoke and chapati. These are typical Kenyan meals which are usually taken by the locals.

If you are the adventurous type, you will learn a lot of things by relating with the host family. You can even have fun learning their language while you also teach them about where you come from. Through this sharing, you will acquire an insider’s view of the different belief systems and traditions in Kenya.

About the host families:

Most of the volunteers will be living with middle class families as their hosts. A typical middle class family consists of both or one parent and children (who could range from toddlers to fully grown adults). Although some or most of the family members may not speak fluent English, you will get one person who is fluent in both spoken and written English. This means there will be no language barrier between you and your host family.

While there are some host-mothers who are stay-at-home, there will be those who go to work on a daily basis. Rarely though will you find that there is nobody at home during the day; there is always someone to take care of the house and clean the surroundings.

Bear in mind that most of the luxuries that you might be used to back home will no longer be available. For example, such services as free internet, cable TV, a washing machine and similar items will not be accessible. This is because Kenya is still a third world country and as such some services are either not provided by the government or the host family can simply not afford them.

Take heart though, this are some of the things that will make your volunteering abroad trip so memorable. You will get to practice washing your clothes with your bare hands and a piece of soap; something you may never have done before! If you find it hard to wash clothes, there will always be a house-help tasked with such chores.

In Africa, and Kenya particularly, it is quite common to find family members of several generations living under one roof! This means great grandparents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and even grandchildren all living in one home. This does not mean that they will encroach on your room; you will always have your privacy even under such circumstances. In addition, you will get to learn a lot by observing how traditional African families coexist.

Our host families are meticulously chosen by our program coordinators. This means that they have been vetted and found worthy of hosting volunteers and co-existing with them harmoniously. Apart from this, Africans believe that guests are gifts from God and therefore do everything possible to make their stay enjoyable.

Common etiquette rules at your host family:

  1. Tidy your room and always maintain a neat appearance.
  2. Let the host family know your meal preferences e.g. you might not like spices.
  3. Be courteous and respectful to your host family. For example, don’t make a habit coming home in the middle of the night and putting on blaring music.
  4. Get to know about your host family. Enquire about their history, family tree and traditions. You can even accompany them as they go shopping or religious events.
  5. Try to learn about their language. Knowing the common words that are used such as “thank you” and “good bye” will really endear you to them.
  6. Unless you host family takes alcohol, don’t take in their home.
  7. Do not use the family’s internet or computer without their consent.
  8. Offer to wash your own laundry, even though the host family will be willing to hire a house-help to do it.
  9. Don’t bring people to your host family without their permission.