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.