I had been teaching English in Vietnam for 3 years when a friend told me about Allambie. Having been there for a while and previously volunteered at another orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City I had a fair idea what Vietnamese orphanages were like and was interested in Allambie as it sounded like something completely different.
I got in touch with Suzanne and we arranged to meet for a coffee. Suzanne told me her incredible story, how she had previously volunteered in an orphanage in Saigon and how she had wanted to create something different, a home. I completely understood what she was saying.
The orphanage I had volunteered in before had around 100 children who in the evening were cramped into three different rooms. What Suzanne had wanted to create was a family home where all the children felt safe and loved. Suzanne told me about each of the children. She told me about their backgrounds and how they had come to Allambie. She told me what they like doing and their hopes for the future.
She spoke so passionately about each of the children I could tell how important it was for her to nurture each of them individually. I had a great deal of admiration for how Suzanne had completely uprooted her life in order to open this house. Suzanne didn’t see it that way though, she just saw it as something that she needed to do.
For my first visit to Allambie Suzanne invited me to the house for dinner and to meet the children. When I arrived at the house it couldn’t have been more different from the orphanage I had previously worked at or what you would imagine an orphanage to look like. The house was huge! The children had spacious bedrooms which they had decorated with posters and there was no more than 2 children to a room. There was even a classroom and a rooftop terrace on the top floor.
You could tell straight away that this place was a so much more than an orphanage, it was a family home. The children were all so welcoming and polite. We sat down to dinner and Suzanne asked the children how their day at school had been and what homework they had been given. It was the first time since I’d been in Asia that I felt like I was in a family environment. After dinner I played board games with the kids.
We had such a lovely evening, the kids were all so well mannered and genuinely happy to be hanging out and getting to know me. Suzanne wanted to have one foreign volunteer for each of the kids and decided that I would be most suited to being Truc’s volunteer. Truc was 17 when I began teaching her. She is a really smart girl but she can be very quiet. Her English is pretty good but she’s definitely more of a listener so Suzanne suggested that we focus on improving her confidence in speaking.
Suzanne gave me great support with identifying Truc’s strengths and weaknesses but she also gave me the freedom and flexibility to see what teaching method suited both myself and Truc. I taught Truc one evening a week. We practiced role play speaking exercises and over the three months I worked with Truc I definitely saw an improvement in her English and a greater willingness to speak English.
I got to know Truc very well over the three months I worked with her. She is a happy, kind and caring girl and thanks to Suzanne she has been given the chance to achieve her potential in the future.
At the end of May I returned to the UK to go back to University. Suzanne invited me to the house to have dinner with her and the children before I left. After getting to know not just Truc but all the children for 3 months I was really sad to say goodbye.
I’m already missing the boys chatting about their girlfriends at school and the girls love of Vietnam’s answer to One Direction, V Music! I know that even if I don’t come back to live in Vietnam I will definitely come back to visit Allambie.
I hope people continue to support and volunteer at Allambie so that Suzanne can carry on giving these children the lives and opportunities that they deserve. Good luck with everything Suzanne. You’re doing an amazing job. You’ve created such a unique and nurturing environment for all of these children. I wish you all the best for the future.