Study in Malaysia enhances work with children for Lindsey White ’13

As part of her work toward a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling, Lindsey White ’13 of East Troy, Wisconsin, recently studied abroad, working with high-risk children in Malaysia.

White and other students volunteered at two different centers, one for older children and one for younger children. White worked with children ages 5-19, helping them with many skills — from writing in English and Malay to relationship skills. The counseling benefitted the children because they typically aren’t given much education or safety knowledge.

“The children cannot go to public or private school because they are not citizens of Malaysia,” White says. Without citizenship, many of the children would end up sitting alone at home or wandering the streets, which can be very dangerous as work and sex traffickers could kidnap them.”

Both centers are located in Chow Kit, an area in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. Because many of the children did not speak English, therapy focused on positive play and displays of empathy. The volunteers colored with the children, played games and engaged them in arts and crafts. The main focus was creating a safe and positive environment for the children.

“Many of the children have had rough lives, and we wanted to create positive and comfortable relationships with them,” White says.

Many of the children were from Myanmar and Pakistan. The volunteers had to work around this language barrier and still engage with the children in ways they could understand.

“It was difficult to communicate at times, but a smile and a hug are universal,” White says. “It was so powerful to see the children open up over the course of our time there. When we arrived, they were mostly reserved and shy. By the time we left, we all had best friends and the room was filled with laughter.”

White is continuing her work with children as she works toward the completion of her master’s degree in May 2016 from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. She is working as a graduate research assistant for a professor, and last semester she worked at the Boys and Girls Club in Oshkosh, teaching topics such as hygiene and bullying.

While the two experiences are similar, White believes that working with the children in Malaysia has better prepared her for working with children.

“In the next few years, my shorter-term goals include working for a hospital, with a behavioral mental health center, and earning licensure or certification in couples, family, geriatric and/or sex therapies,” White says. She hopes to continue to expand her knowledge and work with additional types of people.

In the long term she hopes to open up her own private practice and integrate many types of counseling, such as marriage counseling, children’s counseling and art therapies.

Megan Sohr ’18
Oshkosh, Wisconsin

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