USAC study abroad interns use music therapy to treat Thai children with cancer

As part of their health internship with University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), two study abroad students in Thailand served in the Baan Cheevasilp Art Therapy Center at Khon Kaen University. Together, they used music therapy to create several positive events and experiences for young children recovering from cancer. Local broadcasters at KKU Radio interviewed the students about the program.

Bobby Boaz, a biochemistry and molecular biology major from the University of Nevada, Reno, and Allie Darragh, a neuroscience and theater major from the University of Mount Union spent two months in Chiang Mai, Thailand as part of their study abroad program through USAC. Next, they moved on to the city of Khon Kaen, where both took on the health internship at the encouragement of USAC Resident Director Jum Tippawan.

“A big goal of [our program director] was for us to see what healthcare is like here in Thailand,” Allie said. “She also knew that both of us had a music background.” Allie is studying theatre as a second major and Bobby plays the guitar.

Both students spent several weeks in Khon Kaen working at the center. To give an example of their duties, Allie and Bobby described creating a musical skit and collaborating with younger elementary school children to act it out.

“We just tried to cheer up the children for a couple of hours,” Bobby said. “Obviously, it’s very sad what those children are going through and if we can help in any way to lift their spirits, it’s a good opportunity.”

A couple days later, Allie and Bobby performed for Pediatric Cancer Unit at the center.

“We went to a more severe area with more severe cancer cases,” Allie said.

“We sang a song that has dance moves to it — moving the heads, shoulders, knees, and toes — and one of the kids loved the song so much that he was standing up on his bed, doing the dance with us. He was smiling, laughing, and singing along.”

“It’s pretty amazing to see him going from lying in bed looking unhappy to being super excited to be participating in [the music],” Allie said.

Allie and Bobby encouraged all students to consider helping local communities. It will be a rewarding experience.

They closed the interview with a brief musical performance, similar to what they performed for the children.

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  • Khon Kaen, Thailand; Specialty Internship
  • Academic areas: 
    Community Health
    Research Assistantships