My education and experience is as a therapist — mostly a music and arts therapist.  I’ve been battling my identity as a music therapist.  I love music therapy moments, but I’ve yet to find a job where I love being a music therapist.  In other words, the joy I find in music therapy work with clients has often been overshadowed by the challenges of administrative bureaucracy stuff, or the lack of understanding about my role as a music therapist, or the lack of supervisor or peer support.

And so I joined the Peace Corps, thinking that perhaps I could combine my service with my education/experience as a therapist.  While in Targu Neamt, I didn’t really stretch my music therapy muscles all that much.  I did a bunch of community integration work, art therapy work, but music wasn’t really in the cards and I didn’t want to force it. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed as I missed music therapy and hoped that in my third year extension, I’d have an opportunity to BE a music therapist in Romania.

When I arrived in Ramnicu Valcea, one of the librarians approached me about working with her son’s class.  Word had gotten out that I was a music therapist and I was needed.  So now, once a week, I head down to Babeni (a village outside of town) and I have a music therapy group with 14 – 16 years old at the Center for Inclusive Education.  The teacher, Adnana is a dream to collaborate with.  She’s patient with the students and with me.  She picks up what I’m trying to do easily and since everything is in Romanian, that’s a great help.  We’re a great team and she gets what I’m doing.

The kids are wonderful.  I’m constantly amazed by how open and welcoming they are, how loving they are, how joyful they are despite the tough lives many of them have.  While some of the students have families that are involved in their education/care, many live in group homes or orphanages.

And Tuesdays, we come together and sing little songs that I’ve written in Romanian about basic things like — what’s my name and how are you and can you find something this color.  The kids who don’t typically initiate conversation, start singing.  The kids who need to be first, wait their turn.  The kids who don’t have a chance to make choices, choose who’s next.  All in music. It’s lovely and joyful and active and therapeutic.

I’ve got a few challenges ahead of me: my repertoire of therapy songs in Romanian is small, so I need to get some songwriting done; I have no instruments other than my guitar and I’d like to include some small percussion instruments; and I’ve got more teachers at the school asking me to have a therapy group with their classes.

Regardless of these challenges, the joy of being a therapist with those kiddos is definitely the highlight of my week!