I have just come back home after an amazing week spent with everyone at Allambie Orphanage. I was asked to write down my favorite moments that I had during this week, but for me that feels almost impossible as I loved everything I did with the kids.
When we landed in Ho Chi Minh City I really wasn’t too sure what to expect at the orphanage, all I knew was what I had read online and what my friend Abi had told me, she had volunteered earlier in the year and asked me if I wanted to join her this time around. I already wanted to volunteer somewhere but hearing her stories about Allambie made me very eager to join her. I am of course ecstatic that Allambie was my first experience and can’t wait to hopefully go back sometime soon. I loved every minute of my experience from first meeting the kids and playing what I think is the traditional game of monopoly, to having the kids draw on our faces with crayons which were nearly impossible to wash off.
The first night I met everyone, they were all very friendly and there was a relaxed atmosphere. I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect or if they would like me, however those feelings soon vanished when we all got to know each other better over some board games. It was so comfortable that Abi and myself witnessed the kids pinning poor Suzanne down and tickling her, then the tables turned and it was Suzanne’s turn to chase the kids up many flights of stairs with them all screaming and laughing with excitement. I remember at the time that was the moment that I realized that Allambie wasn’t just an Orphanage but a very close, loving, protective, strong and welcoming family, and I feel honored to have been able to witness this for a week.
As most of the kids were at school during the day we would arrive at the orphanage at 4pm and then spend a couple of hours with them before they all had to go to bed. We played lots of monopoly where I swear to this day Chu Chu and long were cheating, we had a very long game of twister which resulted in lots of laughter, pain and some very embarrassing photos being taken or Abi and myself in some awkward and uncomfortable positions. We chased each other up too many steps for me to count, and probably the most memorable evening was when Abi and myself were given a makeover with crayons which resulted in me having multi coloured eyebrows, a beard, mustache and something written on my forehead in Vietnamese. Trying to get this off was a nightmare and in the end we had to walk back to our hotel with different coloured patches on our faces, which was quite amusing.
On our second day we were taken on a tour of the city by the most common form of transport, motorbikes. This was a very nerve racking experience, as they don’t seem to have the same road rules as in England. This was although scary part of the adventure and way of life in Vietnam so I accepted it and carried on with our day. During our day out we went to some markets and brought some souvenirs for the family, and with thanks to Suzanne and her amazing bargaining skills we got everything at a very good price. Later on we had some Pho for lunch, this is a traditional Vietnamese dish and had to be eaten with chopsticks, I up until that point had a very small experience with chopsticks and so my attempts were the entertainment for everyone else who looked like a professional whilst using them.
Because Abi and myself had the days to ourselves we would either, go out and see the city, or we went to visit some of the sites Vietnam had to offer, like the Vietnamese tunnels and the Mekong Delta. These were both very enjoyable days out and gave me an insight as what life was like during the war and what life is like now in the countryside. On both evenings we went back to the orphanage and had dinner there. I am normally a very fussy eater and the food was one of my worries but whilst I was in Vietnam I enjoyed the new flavors and various foods I had to eat. Meal times at the orphanage were friendly and full of conversation, whether was the children plotting something against Abi, Suzanne and myself or just general chat about how there days were.
On the weekend we were able to spend all day and the evening with the children which was lovely, and tiring as they are all so full of life. We had a day out to the cinema were we watched Fury, which I think scared Abi and me, more than the others, Chu Chu and Long found it exciting and kept on cheering for the goodies and booing for the baddies, this was very amusing for the rest of us and sweet to watch them get so into the movie. Mung fell asleep within 2 minutes of the film starting, Sa and Nhi seemed to be very happy with just watching the movie whilst eating popcorn and drinking coke. It was a very enjoyable day and was finished off with a game of traditional monopoly.
The next day we had everyone over to the hotel for a pool party. Suzanne had kindly made some delicious sandwiches and snacks for us to eat during the day. This was a hilarious and really memorable day, with Chu Chu and Long play fighting with JD, Mung, Truc and Sa all relaxing in the shade, Nhi and Suzanne were relaxing in the pool. Once we were all wrinkled we decided to get ready to go and have a McDonalds, which the kids were very excited about. We treated everyone to a McDonalds that went down very well, and because everyone had such a good day we brought everyone an ice cream to walk home with. After this we went back home for an early night as we were all so tired. Another one of our adventures was the night market, again we got there on motorbikes, which I was gradually getting used to. We had a look around and brought some things and then sat down to have a nice sugar cane drink.
On our final day we spent the evening with the kids as our flight wasn’t until late so we played a solid hour of physically grueling Twister that left myself and Abi almost unable to walk onto the plane. I would highly recommend visiting Allambie if anyone is interested in volunteering. It was amazing to see where the sponsor and fundraising money goes and how Allambie benefits the children.
Overall I loved my time with everyone at Allambie and hope to go back in the near future.