The first journey to Public School #198 upon our return to Georgia felt surreal. To be walking past the tiny open zoo, accompanied by the cacophonous chorus of car horns Ã¢â¬â it’s as if the last seven months back in the UK were a strange dream, and we had been in Tbilisi all along. Any nerves were dissipated upon arriving at the school, where we were greeted with warm smiles, steaming Turkish coffee and a huge slab of creamy Georgian cake Ã¢â¬â perhaps not the most digestible breakfast at 9am on a Monday morning!
We came prepared this time, having arranged for our translator Eliso to be with us on this first day, and with her able assistance held interviews with the school staff who were involved in the six-week training project last autumn at this school and at the Parents Bridge day centre. It was heartening to hear their positive feedback, to have confirmation of the continuation of the music sessions and their observations of the positive changes in the children. Also encouraging was our talk with the headteacher, Teona, who revealed some grand ambitions for the future of music therapy not only in the school, and also in wider Tbilisi. She also shared with us some of the work that the apparently now high profile Para Orchestra, the music group from the Parents Bridge, have carried out over the last few months, including a live performance on television Ã¢â¬â see video below!
We also found out on this first day back that the following day happened to be a national holiday in recognition of Georgia’s Independence Day, which raised some minor concerns about how to fit everything in to such a short week! Careful planning however avoided any major disadvantage, and on a personal level it was very exciting to spend this day in Tbilisi, enjoying the street celebrations of all things Georgian.
For the remaining mornings of the week, we observed as many sessions as possible, and provided feedback and support to the staff members with Eliso’s help. A sense of progress was evident in each session, and we had lots of suggestions for how to develop the programme further in these two settings. However, things didn’t always go smoothly; for example while waiting for one session to start a face popped into the room, shouted ‘surprise’ and then someone dressed as a huge Haribo bear burst into the room!
On Wednesday afternoon, we had an invitation to watch yet another performance of the Para Orchestra at the Bridge Centre, to mark the opening of the new ‘music therapy room’ at this setting. We found this very encouraging Ã¢â¬â it seemed clear how music has become such a central part of the provision at this day centre, and the engagement and energy created by the involvement in musical activity was palpable. We were also impressed (and slightly intimidated) by the presence of a news crew from the Georgian equivalent of the BBC to record this momentous event!
Undoubtedly the highlight of the week was the networking meeting between staff from Public School #200 (the setting for Project Georgia 2012) and the two settings for our project. As was said in the meeting itself, it was as if history was being made; perhaps the very first meeting of music therapists in Georgia! By the end of the meeting, the representatives from all of the settings were enthusiastically discussing their work and were making exciting plans for the future. Watch this space...
It has been a privilege to return to Tbilisi and reconnect with all the wonderful staff, students and service users at these two settings and we hope to maintain this relationship in the future.
Jenny and Isabel