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.