Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bring the sunshine in your heart

Sa-waa-dee-ka (Hi), Voonyin Leow is here again. Time flies, Thailand study abroad is almost over. In this trip, learning will never be the end and the outer world you see is a reflection of your inner self.  No matter where you been or even if you have a language barrier or you been in a different country, music speaks a language to connect people heart to heart and make magical things happen. One of the most valuable things that I learned in this trip was “Appreciate what you have because what you have now is one of the things you once prayed for.”

The most unforgettable experience that I had on this trip was we had an opportunity to visit the biggest children with disabilities center in Bangkok (Baan Fuengfah children’s center). We were also giving a chance to have a music therapy session with 55+ children under the age of seven with cerebral palsy. At the first, I thought there would be no differences from other orphanages that had I visited in Malaysia; however, this experience was indeed unique and priceless. The whole experience was so heart-warming, and from that experience I’ve learned a lot. Life in an orphanage can be very lonely. First, you are surrounded by dozens, possibly hundreds of other kids, but that does not always take the loneliness away. I understand that orphans need interaction, attention, love from positive role models… and those can be hard to come by. Baan Fuengfah children’s center was the best facility that I had ever visited. There were a lot of caretakers who are responsible for many children, possible part-time or volunteers who may be a positive presence to take care and gave attention to children with disabilities.

As a visitor (also as a student music therapist) on that day of having a music therapy session, it was an exciting day, but the worrying expression was also shown out before the session. It was the most adventured experience that it will never happen in a music therapist life; having a session with 55+ children with cerebral palsy, 19 student music therapists, 2 professors, and few staff in a big room. It was a big challenge for us because we had lack of support from the facilities. However, in music therapists’ perspectives, there is no such thing as a “typical” music therapy session. A music therapy session will look vastly different depending on whom we work with and where we work with them. Thus, this opportunity for all of us was an honor. It was like life: you do not just hand you things. You have to get out there and make things happen. That was the exciting part.  

Even though it was one music therapy session, bonding with children with cerebral palsy helped me to realize the true essence of love and gave me a whole new perspective on what and why we had this music therapy session. From our first intervention, our music successfully bonded 55+ children with cerebral palsy with us; they all showed very high engagement in music therapy. However, we still heard many crying and screaming sounds at the beginning. Those children had dramatic pain while somebody was moving their bodies. Gradually, music successfully distracted their attention to their physical pain. Those children started having more interactions with music therapists by continuing to play the instruments by themselves and increasing their non-verbal communication. They all wanted more music, interactions, and touches. Especially the two children that I interacted with, they were capable to move their hands and legs to play the instruments and respond to the music by their lovely smiling faces and constant eye contact.

Throughout this music therapy session, I could tell that all children with cerebral palsy were not afraid of us “farang,” but excited and happy to be engaged and interacting with us. Their happiness made me feel that these children led me to have a great desire to do something for them. As music therapist who comes with a smile and a hug, and even a music therapy session or a special word to share can be rays of sunshine in an orphan’s dark days.  The memories that can be made and the love that can be shared in that short time can last long beyond the time of departure.

         I cannot proclaim enough how incredible this experience was for me and how much it has changed me. This experience will without a doubt stay close to my heart for my entire life and has made me realize that I like to work as a music therapist.

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