FOR most people, feeding a family of five children and ten grandchildren would be enough to keep busy.

But Oxford’s Icolyn ‘Ma’ Smith went one step further and has been serving lunch to the homeless for nearly a quarter of a century.

Now, a book has been written about her experiences.

In 1992, Mrs Smith MBE, now 84, opened the soup kitchen at the Asian Culture Centre in Manzil Way, Oxford, after seeing people in need.

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In a chance meeting, author Andrew Bax from Drayton heard Mrs Smith’s story and has written the book From Coolshade To Cowley Road.

The 71-year-old author said: “She is terrific. Meeting Icolyn and writing her life story has been one of the most interesting of my life.

“It was quite unexpected to meet someone like her and she has a terrific story, it was a privilege to have her tell it to me.”

He added: “I was walking down the Cowley Road and thought to drop in to the Asian Culture Centre.

“I heard a racket coming from round the back, which happened to be the kitchen. I saw a very small person stirring a very large cooking range.”

The pair have collaborated for the past two years on the book, which describes Icolyn’s journey from her birth in Jamaica in 1930 to her arrival in Oxford in 1965 and her charity work since.

Mrs Smith said: “It has brought back so many memories and things I had forgotten. From a young girl I have always seen people in need and always helped all the time.

In 1998 the former carer was made an MBE for services to disadvantaged people and in 2012 received £11,500 funding through the Channel 4 programme The Secret Millionaire.

The book is on sale for £7.99 from Amazon or

l proceeds go to the Icolyn Smith Foundation Trust.

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