Firstly, I’d like to wish everybody a Happy Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year).

September, October, November and December were extremely busy months at Allambie. In September, my friend Ashleigh arrived from England to volunteer for two weeks – this was her first time in Vietnam and it was lovely for me to spend time with one of my friends. The kids got to know her really well and she spent a lot of time taking the children out and about. She also took over Mung and Chuyen’s English lessons for me. Whilst she was here, she also took Mung, Truc, Sa and Nhi to the Mekong Delta for the day. They had a brilliant time even though it poured down with rain. They all came home soaked through but with big smiles on their faces.

In October, all the children knuckled down to their studies. Thiet started full time college and is studying business administration. Sa is now in her last year of high school and consequently, this is a very important year for her. Our latest addition to the family, Nhi, has settled into school well. Truc moved up to level 7 and Chuyen and Mung settled into their new school as well.

All the children still have extra maths and English lessons as they still struggle with these subjects. I’m proud to say that in November all the children sat their last exams for the year and we all waited in anticipation for the results. When these children first started at Allambie 11 months ago, their school marks were low and they averaged between 3 and 6 out of 10. I’m very proud to say that the children’s marks now average between 7 and 9! Chuyen and Mung have actually moved up a level and are now at level 3. They have worked very hard. When Chuyen and Mung were at their old orphanage, they had been at level 2 for over 2 years. But in the short space of time that they have been at Allambie, they have moved to level 3 and I am very proud of their achievements.

In November we had more visitors to Allambie and had a surprise visit from our previous volunteer Sam’s mum, Elizabeth Bradwell and her friend. It was lovely to hear from Elizabeth that Sam had enjoyed his time at Allambie and had talked non-stop about the children and that she’d felt that she had to come and meet the children herself. Also, in November, we had some visits from other Vietnamese adoptees like myself. In particular, a Vietnamese adoptee called Brian. He treated the children to a day out at Vung Tau beach. I made a picnic and the children were very excited and could not sleep the night before. We were at the beach by 8:30am and all the children went into the sea and that’s where they stayed for the whole day.

I’m also pleased to say our cook, Ms Thuy is still with us and is now part of the Allambie family. The children and I adore her. Even though Ms Thuy cannot speak any English and my Vietnamese is still bad, we find ways to communicate, though she spends most of her time laughing at my poor attempts at Vietnamese. To have Ms Thuy come from Monday to Saturday and cook lunch and dinner for the children has been a huge help and I cannot imagine Allambie without her.

The children are also teaching me to speak Vietnamese and every week they give me two new words to learn. They are basic words, like bowl, food, cup etc. For me this is a good way to learn Vietnamese, plus the children feel a sense of accomplishment every time I remember a word. Though I have to say, out of all the children, Mung is the least patient with me when I cannot pronounce the word right. After five minutes her hands go up in the air and she says “no” and walks off shaking her head. On the other hand, all the children’s English has far exceeded my expectations, Chuyen in particular. When Chuyen first arrived at Allambie he could just about say my name. Now, 11 months on, he can say full sentences and understands what I’m saying to him. He enjoys learning new words and picks English up very quickly.

To have so many volunteers and visitors at Allambie over the last year has been great for the children and for me. The children look forward to meeting new volunteers and getting to know their new friends.

In December, I’m afraid to say I had a bad motorbike accident and ended up with a smashed shoulder blade and a fractured collarbone. I had to have major surgery and have two metal pins inserted into the shoulder blade to re-connect the bones. Fortunately, we a great deal of volunteers and friends who are able to continue looking after the children whilst I was recovering.

Consequently, December was a tough month for me as I was in so much pain. The children were a great help. They would take it in turns to sit in my room and make sure I was okay. Because of my injuries I could not use my left arm and every morning the girls would brush my hair and tie it up for me. Fortunately, we had a great deal of volunteers and friends around us who were able to continue looking after the children whilst I was recovering.
In December, all the children wrote their letters to Father Christmas. They were very touching and when I read them, they made me laugh and cry at the same time. The children all told Father Christmas that they were trying hard at school.

As Christmas Day approached, the children were very excited. This was the children’s first ever English Christmas and I made sure it was a fun filled day. On Christmas Eve we all went out for dinner and the children didn’t go to bed until Midnight. All the children were up very early the next day, and were excited to see all the presents under the Christmas tree.

For Christmas lunch we had 15 people around the table. Our lovely cook, Miss Thuy joined us for the day and my friends Toi and his friend, Brian and my friends from England – Tuyet and Kevin, helped to make the Allambie children’s first Christmas extra special. We had Vietnamese food and of course the traditional English Christmas dinner, which the kids thoroughly enjoyed, apart from the Brussels sprouts! After lunch, the children opened their Christmas presents and it was lovely to see the smiles on their faces and squeals of delight.

As I sat and watched the children throughout the day, I could not help but smile to myself. Over the last year these children have changed in so many ways. They have grown more confident; they smile all the time and now enjoy life. To see their progress, in particular their schooling, it has proved to me that Allambie is very much needed in their lives.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to the Vietnamese adoptee community for their tremendous support and Mike Frailey, Tuyet Carr and Toni Harrison in particular

I would also like to say big thank you LMG and Pink Elephant who also raised money for Allambie in November and December and to everyone that has donated and offered support to Allambie over the last four months.

Finally, I would like to say a huge thank you to all our lovely child sponsors for your continued support and with your help, I know that the Allambie children will continue to progress with their education and personal development. To see these children so excited about life and smile and laugh is what Allambie is all about and between us, we can ensure they have a very bright future ahead of them.

Please don’t forget to watch the videos on Allambie on our YouTube Channel here and use our new text donate line by following the instructions below to donate the amount of your choice.

1. Start a new SMS message to the number 70070

2. Type; ‘ALLA22′ followed by the amount you wish to donate (maximum £10).

3. SEND

4. Your SMS message should read ALLA22 £10 (if you wish to donate £10).

You will receive a SMS receipt if your message is successful.

Many thanks again for your support. Suzanne Thi Hein Hook.