Suzanne and I thought it would be fun to surprise the children, as they didn’t know I was back in Saigon. So, on my first morning there we met up in secret and she sneaked me into Allambie, having already prepared the kids by telling them she was bringing in a surprise parcel and that they had to keep their eyes closed and their backs turned until she told them to turn around. When they did turn round and see me I think they were pretty surprised! They all starting shouting and screaming, and ran over to hug me. It was such a lovely feeling, like meeting up with old friends. We laughed and talked and eventually everything calmed down! I just couldn’t get over how they had all grown up!
There were other things that had changed quite considerably since my first visit, the most noticeable of these being that Suzanne (‘Mum’) had managed to find a lovely vietnamese lady to take over the cooking of all meals and other kitchen duties. Previously, Suzanne had been the sole cook and cleaner, along with all the other roles that running Allambie demands. This meant she had more time to meet volunteers and give the kids extra attention if need be.
The whole idea of Allambie is about providing a safe and loving family home for children who otherwise would not have the security or attention that they deserve. I felt this from the moment I first walked into the orphanage (I like to think of it now as a sort of foster home), and that feeling had only grown in the time between visits.
I learned how the children were all excelling in school and saw first hand how their confidence had grown tenfold, Truc and Mung being prime examples. I remembered them being very quiet and shy, and sometimes seemingly scared to talk to me, a westerner. I definitely feel this has changed, and with them having met many more volunteers I am certain that this has had a huge impact on them, not only in terms of them speaking more English but also feeling comfortable with strangers and coming out of their shells much more. It was heartwarming to see them becoming more fully themselves, as individuals but also as a family unit.
The work Suzanne has done and continues to do shows people that stories can be rewritten, that positives can come from what seem very dire or stricken circumstances, and that with faith, love and a lot of perseverance you can achieve so much and have a lasting effect on other people’s lives. I wish everyone at Allambie all the love in the world and much more. I will be back soon. My second home.