Una – 2nd July 2011 – 2 weeks volunteering at Allambie

I first heard of Allambie as I lay in bed watching the ITV news, I was about to turn off the TV and go to sleep when Suzanne’s story came on, as I sat there listening to her interview I knew I would be on my way to Vietnam to see them.

My plan was to do some volunteering in South East Asia but I had not decided to go to Vietnam until I saw and felt inspired by Suzanne’s story, the following day I emailed Suzanne and asked her if it would be possible to come and help out for a couple of weeks. To my delight she replied to my email and we took it from there.

Once I heard back from Suzanne and I had arranged my other details I was off. I first when to India, Nepal and Thailand and although they were all different projects I really enjoyed. I always knew this one was going to be the hardest.

When I first arrived in Saigon, I was not very well and so did not want to pass anything onto Suzanne for the children so Suzanne advised me to take a few days off and we arranged to met for coffee and chat a few days later.

When I first meet Suzanne I was amazed at the approach she took as I had not seen this before, I felt I was doing an interview, which in effect I was really. As we chatted she updated me on the orphanage and the children and gave me a run down on each. On reflection after our meeting I felt this was an excellent approach to take with volunteers as you can never be too careful. Good on you Suzanne

Suzanne invited me to lunch to meet the children the following day and we took it from there. I was a little nervous meeting the children for the first time but that all vanished when I meet them.

We did lots of things during my time at Allambie, I took the children painting a few times, which is their favourite past time, I went to the park with Mung and Chuyen and we played tennis and lost the ball so then went for some ice cream and drinks before we came home, I took the girls for dinner and some clothes shopping and we all had a great evening shopping till we dropped. I then took Thiet (Chuyen came with us too) on a separate night for dinner and some clothes shopping but as it rained it was not as successful but left that in Suzanne’s hands. And of course we did not forget Chuyen either, well let’s just say he is now the most handsome boy in Saigon (not that he wasn’t before) and Mung, Truc and I went to their first ever V Music concert (just in case no one knows who V Music are, they are a boy band), the girls and I really enjoyed it and we meet the band after the concert and took lots of pictures. I think even they were surprised to see a westerner there as was the other Vietnamese teenagers. We watched some DVD’s and had lots of chats about life.

As Thiet had his college and university entry exams I also did some English lessons with him to try and prepare him for the exams.

On my second last day Sa and Nhi took me on a sightseeing tour of the temples in Saigon and we had a great afternoon (once the rain stopped) and as I wanted to buy some DVD’s, the girls took me to the shop were they get theirs, so I wouldn’t be ripped off and then we went for some coffee and cake before we came home.

My two weeks when by very fast and all of a sudden it was time to say goodbye but not for long as I would be back in Saigon very soon to do some more painting.

My new family gave me a great sent off and memories I will always treasure including Chuyen’s pictures is has given me. I know in my heart that they will always be safe in Suzanne’s hands and will continue to grow as any child should in today’s world. I have to say without a shadow of a doubt; Suzanne is doing a great job. It is not an easy task and one that not everyone could or would take on. These children have been through so much in all their short lives but with Suzanne’s courage and strength they now have a bright future and she is very much both their mother and friend. I will be back to see them all when I can and I look forward to watching them grow.

For anyone wanting to volunteer at Allambie, all I will say is, what are you waiting for. Vietnam is a beautiful country so enjoy it.