February 2012 Mark Ledwick

I’ve just returned from an excellent time in Vietnam with Suzanne and the Allambie kids. It’s amazing to see what is happening and what a difference some time, attention and a little money can make to young people’s lives.

The kids are fantastic and it was a privilege to be able to get to know them and spend time with them. I wasn’t sure how things would work with the language situation and with half a dozen children of different ages. In fact, it was very easy as, while the levels vary, they all understand and speak English well. They were also very well behaved and good at organizing themselves with guests. I was pleasantly surprised as, after looking after kids and teenagers in the UK, I haven’t always found this to be the case. I was prepared to help out in any way I could whether it be cleaning, paperwork or whatever. Actually, I was mostly engaged in entertaining the kids – or vice-versa. I sampled local delicacies with Sa, Thien and Nhi – although I passed on the duck embryos which apparently popular with the locals. I enjoyed card and board games with Mung, Truc and Chuyen. We also went to the cinema, went for ice cream and enjoyed some home cooked meals.

I heard about Allambie through my sister who volunteered with her husband. Initially I wasn’t sure if I would be able to be helpful as my trip was fairly short but Suzanne was really helpful and welcoming. I found that although it was only a short time, around a week, it was very easy to get involved. I’m sure it was helped by the fact everyone knew my sister. It’s really great to see the kids making excellent progress in school and how confident and fun-loving they all are. Another slight apprehension I had was that it could have been a bit of a sobering experience but, while there is a very serious side to the work that Allambie does, it is a very happy home and a nice place to be.

On my trip around South East Asia I spent time thinking about social problems in the region and the work that NGO’s and charities do. I also looked into various project across the region. It’s a complicated area and sometimes difficult to know whether charities are helping or hurting. I was really happy helping out with Allambie and I feel that the work that has been done so far is clearly making a positive difference to the lives of those it is trying to help.

The selflessness of Suzanne, who is the brainchild and engine of the charity, is nothing short of amazing and her background means she has an understanding of the children’s situations which would be impossible for most people to fully grasp. I wish her the best for the future, and the occasional holiday so she can relax from time to time. And I especially hope the best for the Allambie kids with every success in their studies as well as continued confidence and happiness in the future. Finally, I look forward to being able to visit again in the near future.