I have been volunteering at Allambie for about 6 or 7 weeks now and thought it was probably time I wrote something about it!
Before I could meet the children, I met up with Suzanne and we had a coffee and she told me all about Allambie and wanted to know why I had approached them.
First Impressions? Suzanne is a very attractive, well dressed woman in her mid twenties (she’d kill me if I told the truth! lol) who calls a spade a spade! She rolled up in shorts, high heels, helmet in hand and we got straight into it. She was very open about why she started Allambie, her childhood, her relationship with her adopted parents and why she needed to open Allambie. No topic was barred and she was obviously a very energetic, opinionated and hard working woman with drive and passion.
When she started to talk about the children, I knew then and there I had made the right choice in Allambie. Here was this dark skinned, driven AmerAsian woman, with a British accent all business – until she spoke about the kids. When she mentioned any of the children, her eyes lit up and you could see the love, not just in her eyes, but her whole body reacted – it was as if she had just walked out of a 1 hour massage, she relaxed so much.
You could tell straight away, she loves her kids and is fiercely protective of the children and I respect her 110% for that.
When she asked me why I wanted to come to Vietnam and volunteer at the orphanage, I answered without really thinking – I talked about the beauty of the country and how much I enjoyed being here. During our discussion, I really thought about why and by the end of our discussion, I realised why I really wanted to do this.
On my first trip to Vietnam, I ended up in Sapa in the far north of Vietnam, I went on a day trek with the M’Huong people and had lunch in their Village. I am not a religious person, but I had the closest thing to a religious experience I have ever had when I was sitting there waiting for them to prepare lunch. I was sitting on the verandah of a ramshackle house, with the poorest people I have EVER met, who were also the happiest people I had ever met, who were preparing a lunch to share with me – the very little they had, they were sharing with me. Yes, I had paid them to take me on the trek and yes, they knew (or at least hoped) I was going to buy things off them, but I truly felt that this was not because they were going to make a little bit of money off me, but because this is what they do – they do not really care about money, they care about people and how they can use money to help their village and their ethnic group.
This one experience I had is really the reason I wanted to come back – I wanted to learn how to give without expecting anything in return, even when the giving hurts.
We spoke for about 3 hours and I obviously passed the first test, because Suzanne asked me to come to dinner the next night to meet the children. After I had met the children, Suzanne would discuss with them if they wanted me to volunteer there. If I didn’t pass the 2nd test, meeting the kids, then it wouldn’t happen.
The next night I rolled up at 4:30pm to meet the kids. I rocked in and spoke with the kids and pretty much straight away the 2 younger boys, Long and Chuyen seemed to take a liking to me. I seemed to get on well with the girls too, but it was obvious the young boys enjoyed the company of a man – even an old guy like me! By the end of the dinner, I was pretty sure I would be coming back, but you never know for sure. I left that night hoping that I would get a call back from Suzanne saying that I had passed the 2nd and final test.
Well, I obviously got the call back and now I spend 3 days a week with the kids doing photography or just hanging out. Tuesdays and Thursdays I teach photography and on Saturdays I go out with a couple of the kids (or even all of the kids) for a fun day, sometimes doing photography, sometimes not, whatever they want to do.