Last Thursday I got to visit Allambie for dinner to meet and hang out with the kids. It was one of my favourite moments in Saigon and I left feeling so inspired and even more passionate about finding and sharing information about the people here doing amazing things.
Abandoned as baby in Vietnam, founder Suzanne Hook was rescued by some English nurses from an orphanage in Saigon and taken back to the UK where she was adopted. As an adult, she started visiting Vietnam to volunteer and in 2010 made the life changing decision to give up her life in London and move to Vietnam permanently. Saddened by how badly run many of the orphanages here are run, and how bleak the lives of the children living there were, she was determined to show the Vietnamese that it can be done another way. Rather than being institutionalized, Suzanne wanted these children to have a home, and a family. She sold her house and car and set off for Saigon where she set up her own orphanage, Allambie.
Every night the family sit down to dinner together, mobiles are banned and they talk about their day. It was such a lovely experience to be part of that, and to see how close they all are. The kids are great, and after dinner we all sat down to play Uno and card games. Chuyen even taught me how to do a magic trick!
Allambie is a registered UK charity and has strict policies for their volunteers, everyone must provide a CRB form (criminal records bureau) or their countries equivalent. They mostly meet Suzanne first and then if she feels they would be a good fit, they are invited for dinner to meet the kids and hang out. I think it is such an important process. Many orphanages in Vietnam have volunteers come and go, which gives the children no sense of routine or stability. With other organisations you can come for a week, a month, maybe six and then leave again. These children form bonds with people, who then leave. Eventually, they will build up a wall and stop becoming close to people. I intend to go into this subject in more detail in another post soon. The beauty of Allambie, is that they have a stable family, Suzanne and the other children. The house is full of love and they all have a routine. Volunteers are essential in helping to keep everything running smoothly, but when they leave the kids still have their family and that makes a world of difference.
I can’t express how much admiration I have for Suzanne and what she has done here in Saigon. Stories like this are exactly why I am here, why I want to work in development and why I want to share it with you all!