Here in Saigon, the children’s summer holidays start in June and they were off school for nearly three months. This was quite challenging for me but lucky, we have had quite a few volunteers in June, July and August.
In June, the children started their extra maths and English lessons. I took my time finding the right teachers to suit each child’s personality. It is important that these children feel comfortable and safe around their teachers which in turn will make their lessons more enjoyable.
When Chuyen first started his lessons, he didn’t like doing homework but over time he has seen his marks go up and now he does his homework happily and proudly shows me his marks. Chuyen gets on well with all his teachers and I’m not sure who has more fun, Chuyen or his teachers, as I often hear both Chuyen and his teachers laughing during his lessons. Chuyen has come along in leaps and bounds and is now a happy little boy who has so much energy and life.
In June we had a volunteer called Sam who was with us for 2 weeks and spent quite a bit of time with the boys which was good for them. The boys all went to the Mekong Delta for the day and had a lot of fun. Sam also treated all the children to a day at the big water park here in Saigon called Dam SEM Water Park. I made a picnic and we set off early and spent the whole day there getting wet on the water slides and swimming.
We also had volunteers called Phil, Linda and their two year old son Luca. They spent three weeks us and it was brilliant. Now I’m not very good with computers, so fortunately Phil was able to sort out the computers that we’ve had donated to us. He asked the kids what they wanted on their computers and he set to work and put anti-virus programmes etc on all of them. The kids kept him busy. Phil even taught me what to do if we do get virus on the computer and showed me how to clean them so my computers skills have got better as well! Linda took Chuyen out for play days with her son Luca which they both enjoyed a lot. Whilst Linda and Phil were here, they also raised enough money to buy Allambie some plants and furniture for the rooftop. We now have the most beautiful rooftop garden with plants, eating area and a lovley swing chair. The kids love the swing chair and we often go to the roof as a family in the evening to talk and listen to music. The children look after the plants and take in turns to make sure they are watered twice a day. Though at the moment, it’s the rainy season so the plants are getting a lot of water naturally!
We also had a volunteer called Una who spent two weeks with us. Mung and Truc introduced Una to Vietnamese pop music. They have a favourite Vietnamese boy band called Vmusic and they are now members of their fan club. Una took them to see their first ever live concert. For Mung and Truc to see Vmusic playing in front of their eyes was a dream come true. Una enjoyed it a lot as well and is now also a member of the fan club. Una also spent a lot of time with Thiet giving him one to one English lessons which he really enjoyed.
Every month we have a family day were we all decide what we are going to do. We have had some lovley family days and I always make sure we eat every meal together as this is important for us at Allambie to share with each other how our day has been and to talk any problems through.
We also have new cook called Ms Thuy. She has been with us now for nearly three months and she comes to the house six days a week Monday to Saturday for three hours and cooks lunch and dinner for me and the kids. Ms Thuy has been a god send to me. The children love her cooking and she is a lovley lady. Ms Thuy cannot speak English but between us, we find a way to communicate but she often spends most of her time laughing at my bad attempts to talk with her in Vietnamese.
Ms Thuy has made my life a lot easier. Now I don’t have to sit up until 4am trying to watch YouTube videos on how to cook Vietnamese food. Plus, when I was cooking for the children, some of my dishes were a bit hit and miss. Every mealtime, I would watch the kid’s reaction to my dishes and even I admit, some were really bad! I’m keeping everything crossed that Ms Thuy stays with us for a long time as it took me ages to find her.
The kids have all gone back to school now and are settling back into school life. Sa is now in level 12 and this year is a big year for her. She will sit two important exams next year that will decide if she can get into Uni or college.
We have also celebrated quite a few birthdays with the kids. These children have never celebrated their birthdays before and have never had their own birthday cakes. So every birthday we have celebrated this year has been a very special day for them.
We take so many things for granted like birthday cakes and hugs but these children have never had anyone take the time to make them feel special and wanted. So when I see these children smile and get so excited over a cake, it is a very humbling experience.
The children are all coming out of their shells and have got used to spending time with volunteers and the children’s English has improved greatly since living at Allambie. They have grown in confidence and sometimes I get so emotional just watching them grow before my eyes. They make me laugh with some of things they say. For example, a few months ago Sa and myself were going shopping and were going through the list of food that we needed to buy. Sa said, “mum we need garbage!” I looked at her and said “garbage?” and she said, “Yes you know the big white, round vegetable” I smiled and said “you mean cabbage!” I then showed her what garbage actually was and we both fell about laughing!
I know with your continued support we can help more children and I look forward to sharing the development of them with you and together we can give them a life and a future that all children deserve.
Suzanne Thi Hein Hook