January was busy because every year Vietnam celebrates the Vietnamese lunar New Year. Tet is a traditional holiday celebrated annually by the Vietnamese to mark the beginning of both spring and the new lunar year. Tet is about getting together with family and friends to exchange gifts, share warm wishes and pay respect and homage to their ancestors.

Saigon becomes a ghost town for a week as everything shuts down. Everyone packs up and heads back to the countryside, as did the children. They all went to spend one week with their grandparents, which takes 6 hours by bus. Allambie believes that this is important for the children to keep connections with grandparents.

I prepared the children by buying them a some news clothes, big food parcels and a gift for their grandparents. The food parcels are necessary because the children’s family are so very poor, they would struggle to feed them for the week without it.

In January we had two volunteers called Paul and Helen from England and they spent two weeks with the children. The girls enjoy having a female role model. Paul spent quite a bit of time with Thiet composing music as they both share the same passion.

Helen and Paul also organised Allambie’s first sports day. Races such as the three-legged race, balloon game, the all-time classic egg and spoon race, plus many others. Though when we showed the children how to do the egg and spoon race Chuyen and Mung both looked at me with puzzled faces and said “No, Mum we eat the egg and then run.” I couldn’t stop laughing. We then enjoyed a lovely picnic.

In February we had a few more volunteers. Mark was with us for 8 days and the children had a great time with him; Chuyen took a special shine to him. Prue was with us for nearly four weeks.

Prue took over the children’s English lessons for me and spent a lot of time with Chuyen and Mung.

All the volunteers enjoyed spending time with the children and they, in turn, took them round Saigon on their bikes and got them to try different street food. The children always enjoy spending time with the volunteers and ask a lot of questions as they like to learn about different countries and cultures.

The children are still doing well in school and their marks continue to improve. Truc, Nhi and Sa all got certificates for being the top student in their class for some of their subjects, which is truly amazing as over a year ago they were bottom!

In April I had to return home to England as I was still having problems with my wounded shoulder. This obviously brought some difficulties as it meant I had to leave the children for a month. Luckily my dear friend from England, called Tuyet who is also a Vietnamese adoptee, offered to come and spend three months with the children. This meant I could get my shoulder fixed and rest for a bit.

The children got to know Tuyet well before I left and I knew that the children were in safe hands. I spent most of my time in England sleeping and eating all the British food that I had missed so much – Brussels Sprouts being one them. It was lovely to meet up with friends and watch English TV.

I arrived back in Saigon three weeks ago. I’d missed the children so much there were many hugs to be had!

We are coming into the rainy season now and one of our sponsors kindly gave me some money to buy all the children proper rain coats whilst I was in England. The rain coats in Vietnam don’t really cover you that well and last year we all went down with colds and flu. The children now have good quality rain coats with hoods that will keep them all dry.

Thank you for your continued support Allambie and we look forward to having more volunteers over the next few months. Plus the children have their last lot of exams before the summer holidays and I look forward to telling you their exam results in the next Allambie newsletter.