I would like to tell you about my time at the Allambie orphanage. I think my preconception of the idea or word of orphanage comes from Victorian times; I didn’t know what I expected to see…skinny, sad children who have been abandoned or neglected in rags. The reality at allambie is completely opposite the words that come to mind are ‘home’ ‘love’ and ‘laughter’. The Allambie children there made me feel so welcome and immediately like part of the family and that is what they are a real family that look out for each other and banter with each other and care for one another.

I had a traditional Vietnamese dinner cooked by Ms Bich (the cook) with the whole family, Suzanne or mum as all the kids call her, mark or dad as all the kids call him, Auntie a very kind Vietnamese lady who also lives with the children full time.

The Children BI, Sa, Nhi, Chuyen, Truc, Mung and Little Long, who is the youngest at just 10. The children are so polite and helpful always wanting to fill your plate with more food making sure you had enough water, even that the fan was pointing at me and that I wasn’t too hot. One night mum also cooked an English meal lasagne for everyone and on this night, there was complete silence as everyone enjoyed the food so much! After dinner each child takes turns to wash up and clear the plates and everyone sat down to play cards, they taught me some Vietnamese words and we laughed a lot and after cards the children got ready and went off to this school.

The children’s English is very good, and this is partly thanks to the British Council School they go to in the evenings and weekends. Suzanne (mum) has worked her magic to ensure all the children get to study at the British Council for FREE!!!!!!! This is such an amazing opportunity for them as it is the best English school in Vietnam and usually costs 20,000 pounds a year just for one child.

We spent a day together as a family at the bowling centre, in the game there was a lot of laughs, hugs and celebrations. The winners got ice cream bought for them by the losers but the losers not to be outdone also got a cake iced with their team name!

I was also lucky enough to spend a one on one day with char the oldest of the Allambie children. As a massage therapist back home I wanted to go see the FIFO museum of traditional medicine. Char drove me there on her scooter I felt very safe and the whole way we chatted about Vietnamese culture, her schooling, upbringing and her family life in the country. When we got to the museum, we had fun dressing up in the traditional Aoi’s and char translated everything and showed me which herbs and natural medicines were used in her village and told me more about the history of Vietnam and their relationship with China it was absolutely fascinating and enriched my experience of the place so much to be there with her, she will make a fantastic tour guide in the future (this is one of her dreams).

After the museum, I asked if there was a place to go for a hair treatment as I had admired all of the Vietnamese’s woman’s hair how it is so thick and shiny and in good condition. Having inspiration from the herbal medicine museum she suggested we buy the ingredients from the local market and make our own with avocado, aloe Vera, honey, milk and eggs, as this is the natural way Vietnamese women pamper themselves in the countryside. So we whipped around all the markets and brought the ingredients it was very interesting to see.

At home we made the mixture together at the kitchen table some of the other girls were also going to get a pampering treat too from our concoction and as she showed me how to peel the aloe, Little Long who was also sitting at the table was being helped by dad with his homework, from the British council school and some of the other children chilled on the big comfy sofa sharing music, watching a comedy and stories … an idyllic family scene.

I can tell you after this treatment my hair was so soft and skin nice and clear wow! This stuff works. But what was most beautiful was just to spend time with these children my new family, they make you smile and their laughter is infectious, it is hard to believe where they have come from and the difficult start in life they have had and this is all down to Suzanne’s (mum’s) hard work, dedication, perseverance and creativity in fundraising to support this home and sustain it, the food, the education, and the volunteers support. As I left I said I would return and nee said ‘ make sure you do before I start to get grey hairs’ J they can be sure that it will be well before then, they are such a pleasure to be with and I would like to help them in anyway I can to achieve their dreams, even if it is just practicing English or helping with fundraising for their continued education and support of daily needs.

Thank you Allambie for giving me so much. X

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