Allambie Orphanage was founded out of one woman’s desire to create a loving, secure family home, something that was lacking from her childhood. Suzanne (Thi Hien) Hook was a war baby, abandoned on the streets of Saigon, rescued by a policeman and dumped at the nearest orphanage on Cong Quynh.

As an Amerasian, the daughter of a black American GI father and Asian mother, her darker skin colour meant she was neglected by her carers. Luckily, she was rescued by visiting English nurses and flown to the UK where she met her new parents at Gatwick airport. What followed was a traumatic childhood, and the realisation that not every adopted child lives happily ever after.

Growing up, Suzanne never felt a sense of belonging, of being among people who looked like her. A desire to fill this void prompted a return to Vietnam, in the hope she could reconnect with something that would define her. Help her to discover her heritage, and perhaps even find her birth mother.

She arrived back in Saigon in 2006 and didn’t find what she was looking for. On her last day, a chance meeting with a stranger gave her hope and prompted a return three months later. This time she would stay for a year. During her time, she volunteered at local orphanages, immersed herself in Vietnamese life and formed real relationships with the children in her care.

More visits lead to stronger connections with the kids, many of whom were unloved and abused by the people supposed to care for them. She decided her purpose in life was to provide as many children she could with the loving, supportive home that she never had. So, Allambie was conceived.

Suzanne’s experience with local orphanages had painted a horror story of abuse and exploitation. She was determined that her home would offer a family environment for the children in her care. The first child to join her was Sa, a young girl who dreamed of being a tour guide, yet was scared to think of her future. Together, they have made Allambie what it is today.

Over time, Suzanne has added eight more children to her family, each one rescued from a bleak future and given a second chance at life. The kids have made Allambie the loving family home it has become today. Meals are shared, votes are taken for family activities, there is laughter and tears, but always unconditional love.

No longer having to work for their keep, her kids can attend school and pursue their education further if they want. Sa is about to graduate from tourism management college and achieve her dream of becoming a tour guide. Another kid is studying web development. Another is a tattoo artist.

Suzanne and the kids at Allambie are proud that every penny donated to the orphanage goes directly to the kids’ welfare and to pay for their education. Suzanne sold her house in the UK and doesn’t take a salary for her work here. Self-funding, and raising nine kids aged from 10 to 24, can be a challenge, but every one of them now has a mum, someone who is always there for them with unconditional love.

Come and show your support for the kids at Allambie at the next Love Vietnam Rooftop Party.