Chloe Weightman – Feb 2014
Testimonial for my trip to Allambie orphanage
When I found out that I was lucky enough to win a trip to Ho Chi Minh City to visit Allambie orphanage I was ecstatic as this would be a once in a lifetime trip. However it did not actually become a reality for me until I was on the plane and making my way there.
After travelling for 27 hours I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City and did not know what to expect, but I fell in love with the City straight away.
This then made me even more excited to meet all of the Allambie children and immerse myself into their culture. Although I was excited I was also very nervous, I was worried about if they were all going to like me or not.
On our first day in the city we visited the war museum, this for me was a very emotional experience, as I did not know much about the Vietnam War, I went in to the museum with a blank canvas. The many pictures that were up in the museum that showed the victims of the war shocked me. After visiting the museum we got some lunch and then we were off to finally meet the children.
When making our way to the orphanage I had an image what it might have looked like but when I arrived at the orphanage it was not how I imagined it to be, it was a lot nicer as I had built up a stereotypical image from what I have heard about other orphanages in the city.
It was very spacious and had a very relaxed energy about it. When we first met the children I feel like we all bonded immediately and dived straight into a game of monopoly, when halfway through our game Tintin (the orphanages dog) decided that he wanted to play and run into our board sending everything everywhere. We then had a home cooked meal with everyone, which was delicious, after we then went out for ice cream with the children and then we went back to our guesthouse to get some rest.
For the next two days we took on the challenge of painting the schoolroom on the top floor of the orphanage. Little did I know what I was about to let myself in for. At first it all went well, everyone was putting paint on the walls but that then turned into a paint war, with paint going everywhere but the walls. By the end of the first day of painting there was paint all over the floor, the doors and even on the roof top garden. I had paint everywhere all over my cloths, up my arms and hands, on my feet, my face and my hair; everyone was covered in white paint. After finishing for the day we then went to the night market, which was great fun.
The next day we finished painting the schoolroom and started to paint the bookshelves that were going in the room. Suzanne also went out and bought some blank canvases that we could all paint on, I teamed up with Truc and Mung, this for me was a real bonding experience with the girls and at the end of it we created a great masterpiece of two dancing pandas.
In the evening the children took us on a street food tour, this I was sort of worried about as although I will try things, I am also a very fussy eater. However everything that I tried I liked. We then went to the park and saw a roller coaster ride; we decided that we had to go on this. The ride lasted for seven minutes and was tossing us around, after, this left some of us feeling sick!
On the Monday whilst everyone was at school we went on a day trip of the Mekong Delta. This was an enjoyable day and gave us a chance to see a different part of Vietnam; the trip was also very relaxing and interesting. We were also able to try a traditional Vietnamese sweet, coconut candy, it was delicious, I don’t normally like coconut but I bought five bags of it! Also whilst doing the tour I held a python which I thought I would never do. That evening we were treated by everyone and taken out to dinner, the food was great and we all had a lovely time filled with lots of laughter!
On Tuesday we were going to ‘cook’ for the children, we told them that we were going to cook them some Vietnamese food, we also laid it off to the children that we were all bad cooks. We then cooked them ‘soup’, Suzanne came over at one point and tried it, she then said that it tasted too nice and that the children would eat it, she then proceeded to put in a whole bottle of vinegar and some hot chili sauce. We served it, said grace, then we all watched the faces of the children, there reactions were hilarious, we then told them that we were joking and this was not their dinner. A MacDonald’s had just opened around the corner of the orphanage, it is the first one to be opened in Vietnam, we told the children that we were taking them there and they were all so happy. When I arrived at the MacDonald’s I have never seen such a large and extravagant MacDonald’s, they do not look like that in England. After this we went to the Ben Thanh market.
Wednesday was our final day and we decided to spend it chilling by the pool at a hotel near the guesthouse and the orphanage. After spending the day at the pool we freshened up and went to the orphanage for our final meal with them. We had a delicious meal with everyone and then for the rest of our time there until we needed to go to the airport we sat with everyone playing games of Vietnamese cards. This then turned into a betting game where all of the children were betting with the sweets that I bought for them; this was very funny and got very serious quickly. For the final game all of the children put in all of their sweets and it was a battle to see who would win them all, in the end Chu Chu won them and then it was time for us to leave. The children and Suzanne got us some presents which was very sweet of them, they got us pretty bracelets and a mug with a picture of all of us on it in the new schoolroom, that we painted, this was very thoughtful of them and something that I will cherish.
We were all sad to say goodbye to the children as we had all had the most amazing time. The trip for me was a real eye opener as I was able to see for myself how other people live and what their life is like, I was also able to see for myself where my money that I raised was going which was great. Whilst on my trip I also realized how lucky I am to live the life that I live and how these children have been able to go through so much but they are all so bright, energetic and happy. The energy at the orphanage is great as well because you can really feel like everyone is one big family that all look out and care for each other. I am so lucky to have been able to go to Vietnam and meet these amazing children and I hope that I will stay in contact with them and I hope that I will be able to visit them very soon!!! I am very grateful for my trip and want to thank everyone for making it so special and I want to especially thank Suzanne and the children for such a wonderful time.