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  • Training of Trainer in Georgia - happening now!

    So, Project Georgia has reached a new stage! Following two six week training projects (one in 2011 and one in 2014) and subsequent support visits, the request for Training of Trainers is being fulfilled this cold, wet week in October. Isabel and I arrived back in Tbilisi very early on Sunday morning and we are already half way through our short visit, with so much to pack in.

    We have spent the last two days visiting the three settings where the previous training projects were held – Public School 198, Public School 200 and the Parent’s Bridge day centre. With the able assistance of our ever reliable interpreter, Eliso, we have held discussions and observed sessions with the directors and staff who have been delivering music as therapy sessions for the last few years. At all three settings, it has been clear to us how much they value their sessions, and there was a (very well deserved!) sense of pride throughout our discussions. Isabel and I were particularly delighted to see the astounding changes in some of the children we first worked with during our own training project in October 2014, which the teachers attributed solely to the music sessions. For example, Mari*, a non-verbal 9 year old girl with autism whom we last saw in May 2015, was previously unable to sit for more than a few moments, and would wander around the room, only occasionally engaging with the activity at hand. Observing her in a session on Monday, we were amazed to see her sitting and joining in for the majority of the session, and even joined in singing and saying the names of the members of the group. Her teachers informed us that she has never spoken outside of the music class – we were told that her parents had difficulty believing the teachers when this development first emerged! How affirming for the staff, and how re-affirming for my own belief in what we are trying to achieve with this project.

    The demand for Training for Trainers has been clear throughout our visit thus far. One particular driver for this request has come as a result of the acquisition of some funding by Teona Kacheishvili, the director of Public School 198 and the Parent’s Bridge, to open a new Music Therapy Centre – Georgia’s first such establishment. The centre is due to open in December 2016 and five music specialists will be employed to carry out music as therapy sessions. Teona has also had visits from the Ministry of Education in Georgia, who we are told were highly impressed by the music sessions and the extremely positive feedback from parents and staff alike, and have recommended that they continue. What a truly exciting time for this emerging field in Georgia – how fortunate we are to be involved.

    And so, as the observation portion of our week comes to an end, all (all!) that remains is to reflect on all we have seen and heard, and from these reflections prepare to deliver two days of training to staff from all three settings. It feels like this project is well on the road to become truly self-sustaining, and I for one can’t wait to see what happens next.

  • Final week of Highlands Skill sharing project

    So that's it for now week 6 has come and gone! It's been a brilliant 6 weeks and I was so excited to see some fantastic work during this last week from the trained staff. I want to say a huge thank you to all the staff I have worked with during this project and I am already looking forward to seeing them in December for a follow up visit. I have had some wonderful feedback from staff and feel really confident that they are going to be carrying on with some lovely music work. Well done to everyone involved and a huge thank you too to those who have been supporting from the sidelines. Good Luck! 

  • Alexia's visit to Palestine Day 3

    Over the past two days I have had the privilege of watching the people who completed our Distance Learning Programme here in the Occupied Palestinian Territories delivering music sessions with small groups of children.  I have been so impressed by the sensitivity with which they create a space where the children can develop their relationships with each other, try out new ways of communicating,  test boundaries and channel their energy into their use of musical instruments. 

    My visits have taken me to a music centre attended by children from local villages and camps, to a centre for people with visual impairments and other disabilities, and to a kindergarten in the smallest camp in Bethlehem.  I have learned so much about the context in which the people I have got to know through the Distance Learning Programme are actually working as well as experiencing the water restrictions, checkpoints, inequalities, beautiful historic buildings, delicious mezze and passionate commitment to music therapy of local people for myself.  It’s a complicated and confusing place to be but I will return to the UK much better equipped to consider the role of Music as Therapy International here next year and into the future.

    Picture:  Fabienne Van Eck arriving to lead her music session at the Kindergarten

  • Alexia's visit to Palestine

    Waiting at Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem, this morning I was reminded how amazing all our volunteers are who travel to deliver projects overseas for Music as Therapy International.  It is a long time since my involvement in any of our projects has taken me to a new country – I spend most of my time overseas in Romania - and now here I am trying to get my bearings as quickly as possible so that I can make the most of my short visit.  It is a daunting prospect and I am surrounded by sights and sounds that are totally unfamiliar to me.  And yet this is experience of somewhere unknown is what all our music therapists and volunteer assistants embrace for us when they embark on one of our introductory training projects.  I take my hat off to them!

    I am here to evaluate the Distance Learning Programme we have been piloting in partnership with Musicians without Borders in Palestine.  Today I had a long discussion with Fabienne van Eck (Musicians without Borders, pictured below middle) about how we might build on what has proven to be a very positive experience for the students who took part.  There is a long list of people who she is keen to see access the training, it is just a question of how we might do this next year.  I also met with one of the students who has completed the course this year, Halimeh (pictured far right), who was enthusiastic about how it has helped her build relationships with children with disabilities.  Over the weekend I will have the opportunity to see music sessions run by all those who completed the course and it will be fascinating to see how they have taken the teaching and resources we provided, and developed their own approaches to making music with children in and around Bethlehem.

    My day came to an end with a winding journey through steep, pale stone streets as the sun sat low in the sky.  I have a lot to learn about this complicated region, but it has been exciting to see that we have played an effective part in supporting local people extend what they are able to offer to the vulnerable young children with whom they work.  I look forward to meeting some of the children myself in the coming days.

    My thanks to Ahmad (pictured above left) for his patience and translation, and to the Longe family for offering me such a welcoming place to stay while I am here.


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