PlayWrite Project Georgia: We did it!
In July 2015, we began our first international replication in the Republic of Georgia. Through the success of a driven Kickstarter campaign, PlayWrite brought six women from Tbilisi, Georgia to Portland, OR. After rigorous training, these new coaches brought their skills back home and continued to make Project Georgia a reality. In April 2016, PlayWrite: Project Georgia was actualized! The performance on April 28th at the Iliauni Theatre in Tbilisi marked a moment worth celebrating!
Read more about our Kickstarter journey.
Who is Elene?
I’m a PhD from the International PhD Program in Gender Studies, Tbilisi State University. I have my MA in Social and Political Science and BA in Psychology. During my BA, I studied in Germany (University of Saarbrucken) within the framework of a student exchange program. After returning to Tbilisi I started to work in the field of social sciences and since then I’ve been involved in research activities.
Since 2012, I have worked as a Project Director and Senior Researcher at the Center for Social Sciences (see: www.css.ge). I lead and implement various projects addressing social, psychological and gender-related issues. My research interests are focused on youth, gender equality, women's and children’s mental health and rights. I’m also an author of several research publications concerning gender policy, drug addiction and women's mental health.
The knowledge and experience gained from the field of social sciences and various research studies covering many current social and psychological problems helped me to understand that more action is needed in order to trigger social change. Therefore I decided to establish a nongovernmental organization – FELIX – in 2015, which focuses on activities supporting social change. FELIX may be regarded as a platform for enthusiastic people who are interested in addressing positive changes for children and youth needing psycho-social support and help.
Elene’s PlayWrite experience
Two years ago, the idea to run PlayWrite workshops in Tbilisi seemed a dream that might not come true. After many months, of hard work, many days and nights of trainings, translations, adaptations and editing we made it happen. On the 11th of April we started our first PlayWrite workshop in Tbilisi and on April 28th we had a magic and absolutely fantastic performance day. The whole process of working with youth showed me that we as coaches and PlayWrite as a program gained interest and love in Georgian participants. During the PlayWrite workshops, we were able to build a healthy and safe environment, strong connections and relationships in the group and reach a creative and inspired atmosphere. The whole process demonstrated that it is of immense importance to have more and more of these kind of activities in Georgia. PlayWrite is a youth oriented program that has strong and long-term benefits for young people.
I’m overjoyed and proud that we had a chance to be involved in PlayWrite, to be trained as coaches in Portland and implement this fantastic program in our country.
Who is Nato?
I am a psychologist by profession. I have BA and MA degrees in psychology from Tbilisi State University and a Master of Science degree in Social research from the University of Edinburgh. I’ve worked at a local NGO GCRT since 2005. Our organization provides psychosocial and medical assistance to various vulnerable groups – people who have been tortured in different settings, captivity, war, prisons, women and children, victims of sexual and domestic violence, internally displaced persons and refugees. I do a lot of different things at my job. I am partly an administrative assistant; I also coordinate projects and I am involved in research activities.
I’ve worked with children’s groups in IDP settlements and I’ve also worked in juvenile special facilities where the young offenders serve their sentence. In my multi-task and multi-responsibility job I have always gained something from working with kids and young people the most. That was the reason I was fascinated by PlayWrite when I heard about it and decided that I needed to become part of it!
Nato’s PlayWrite Experience
April 28th - the performance day, was the end of a two-year long journey for me. During these two years there were many times when I thought PlayWrite Georgia would not be possible, due to organizational and financial issues. It was only when I was getting on a plane to Portland that I realized we had done it, and PlayWrite was happening.
After observing the work of coaches in Portland I was in despair. The program seemed very difficult, the coaches were great professionals and at some point I really thought that we wouldn’t be able to conduct the PlayWrite workshop in Georgia.
However, all of us in Georgia began working very hard since winter and we all knew that if we wanted to make it work, we would have to invest a lot of energy and effort into PlayWrite. The training part was very eye-opening and hard as well. We learnt a lot of things, helped one another, received answers to many questions (even though I still had a lot of questions left) and trained the new coaches.
I’ve always loved working with kids and adolescents because I really believe that this is the ideal age to make positive changes in young people’s cognition and behavior and help them find something new about themselves. That is what PlayWrite does, and why I got so interested in this program and took part in its first workshop in Georgia.
Coaching a young girl at the workshop was very interesting but so difficult! It was such a tough job to get her to imagine characters, their features, conflict, and the play. Initially it was hard for her to get creative and be free in her imagination; it was a real struggle, inside herself and between us as well. I was pushing her all the time and I was trying to be creative and be alert to find something that would be emotionally true to her, and that was very challenging, because relating to one’s emotional truth can be scary.
Another problem we had was that she was smart; besides having difficulty being truthful and creative, she was scared that she was saying ‘stupid’ things and didn’t like any ideas she had. It took a lot of effort to reassure her that there was nothing stupid in the original, unique play that she was creating, and that there were no right or wrong answers in the PlayWrite process. My student did manage to get some of her emotional truth out, and put it into her characters, and she came up with several fantastic ideas when we were working on the possible conflict scenarios between the two characters. That was a huge success for me! Additionally, in the closing circle on performance day, she said that I had taught her a lot of things and especially that there are no right or wrong answers (I think that was something very important to her in her everyday life – to be perfect and to not say or do something that is a mistake or is wrong). This was an incredibly rewarding moment for me.
The performance day was full of various emotions— there was excitement, fear, pride, joy, anxiety and tension. When the performance started, I couldn’t even sit down and watch peacefully, I was so nervous! And of course the ultimate reward for this amazing, creative, interesting program was to watch the proud kids who had accomplished something so meaningful and important in their lives. I could see how happy and proud my writer was, along with others, how happy they were, because they had the opportunity to direct their own plays and watch them performed live on the real stage of the real theatre! This experience opens so many channels for young people. It gives them a chance to discover themselves, to develop creative and even problem solving skills and to gain self-confidence, which is crucial to their age. The only regret I have is that I didn’t participate in PlayWrite as a writer when was a kid.
Who is Sopo?
Sopo Vasadze studied at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, in the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, and has her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology (2005-2009). In 2009-2011, Sopo obtained her MA degree in Anthropology at Iv. Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University. During her Master’s course she was interested in the cultural dichotomy of Individualism-Collectivism. Her Master’s thesis focused on “Social Interaction and Individualistic/Collectivistic Values and Behavioral Orientations.” She has some working experience in the non-governmental sector and research centers.
Since 2011, Sopo is one of the members and founders of the Initiative Group, Young Supporters of Social Change in Georgia. The initiative group successfully completed the project "Gender-Based Violence is a Social Problem.” The aim of the project was to strengthen Georgian youth’s cultural-social discourse supporting gender quality in Georgia. Since June 2015, Sopo has worked at the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia as a Project Coordinator.
Sopo’s PlayWrite Experience
This year I was unfortunately not able to join the first PlayWrite workshop in Georgia as a coach because of job duties, but I was involved in the process of Playwrite: Project Georgia, specifically the guideline/training manual translation and other preparation activities.
I attended the first two days of the workshop as a floater and helped the team at the final performance day. I can say that this premier PlayWrite workshop in Georgia was completed successfully, and with the help and guidance of our American friends and colleagues, Bruce and Lyndsay. The children were immensely happy and satisfied with their work. The performance day was attended by many people, and there was also interest from the media to shoot the performance day.
During the preparation process, we shot a video to raise awareness regarding the PlayWrite project. We hope that the government sector and some international donors will be interested to implement the project in Georgia in the future.
Who is Anka?
In 2002, I began studying psychology at D. Uznadze Institute of Psychology. I became a volunteer for the non-governmental organization, Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims. This was my first professional encouter with psychotrauma. After graduating in 2007, I was employed by this organization as a psychologist.
GCRT was established in 2000 and since then, works specifically with people with differant traumatic experiences and mental health problems. Currently GCRT provides the largest trauma service in Georgia. The main focus of the organization is providing assistance to victims oftorture, domestic violence, war, sexual abuse, etc., and advocating for the human rights of these vulnerable groups.
In parallel with GCRT, I worked at Union Saphari – a sister organization of GCRT – assisting victims of domestic violence and operating the first shelter in Georgia. For two years I was coordinating the activities of the shelter. In 2010 GCRT and Union Saphari together established the first service for children and women who were victims of sexual abuse. I was actively involved in the implementation of this project. I am currently working in this service as child psychologist.
I have also participated in a project that monitored psychiatric institutions, organized by the Public Defenders office, together with Global Initiative in Psychiatry. The main focus of this project was patient rights. Since 2010, different mechanisms of restorative justice have been introduced, including programs of diversion and mediation. I am involved in this project as a mediator.
In 2012 -2014 I studied at Ilia state University in the Mental Health Masters program. From 2013, I also began working as an accompanier for the family members of the missing persons in the joint project of ICRC and GCRT.
Anka’s PlayWrite experience
PlayWrite Georgia began two years ago very strangely, when a mysterious man knocked on our office door and asked if we would like to conduct an American program in Georgia. Then, me and my Georgian colleagues spoke via Skype with a group of wonderful Americans and after that, we were very soon siting in Portland and learning how to become PlayWrite coaches.
After this knock on our door it’s been two years and we conducted our first PlayWrite workshop in Georgia. It was amazing! The entire process of working with young writers, to watch their change throughout the workshop. It was a big challenge for me and for the young writer I was working with, but the last day of the workshop was so magical, all of us –young writers and coaches – could see what we had accomplished in these two weeks! We saw the changes in young writers and in ourselves. I will never forget this wonderful experience and have hopes that PlayWrite Georgia will conduct many more PlayWrite workshops to change the life of youth in Georgia! I want to thank Lyndsay Hogland who supported us every single day throughout the whole process, to Bruce Livingston who trusted us and encouraged us to join the PlayWrite team, and to the whole PlayWrite Portland team who helped us become coaches in this journey.
Who is Tina?
My Name is Tina Javahishvili, I am 29 years old, from Tbilisi, Georgia. After finishing school, I started to study psychology at D. Uznadze Institute of Psychology. During my first year of study I had wanted to work in a bookstore, but ended up as a volunteer in GCRT. I was doing all kinds of work there, from making copies of documents to helping psychologists conducting group sessions. GCRT was and still is working with different target groups (IDPs, refugees, former prisoners, victims of sexual violence, etc.). After some time, I had begun working there full time and doing all kinds of work with beneficiaries.
I have experience in working with ID Children, Juvenile detainees— children with varying kinds of trauma, including victims of domestic violence (I also work at Union Sapari, which is an NGO for victims of domestic violence); currently I am also working with children who have a history of sexual abuse.
In 2012 – 2014 I studied in Ilia State University’s Mental Health Master program and completed my degree in Psychotraumatology. This was a very compelling experience for me and gave me a lot of new and fresh information in my field. Since finishing school, I am studying and working at the same time and this has given me the opportunity to implement my theoretical knowledge in practical work, which has been a wonderful experience for me. In my free time I like to ski, travel and spend time with friends. Someday I wish to be able to build a shelter for homeless cats and dogs.
Tina’s PlayWrite Experience
Being part of PlayWrite was, and is, one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It was the hardest, most exciting, most groundbreaking work I have ever done. It was full of emotions, different feelings – joy and sadness, excitement and anxiety. I saw how these writers changed in front of our eyes, I saw how they tried, how they wanted to give up but did not. I saw how we gained their trust and how they learned to trust themselves, I saw pride in their eyes on the performance day. I believe their lives have been changed, and I know that I have changed because of PlayWrite.
Who is Maro?
Mariam (Maro) Amashukeli was born in Tbilisi, Georgia. She is 27.
Mariam holds her BA in Sociology (2005-2009, TSU) and MA in Anthropology-Interdisciplinary Research (2009-2011, TSU). She has worked as a researcher at the Center for Social Sciences (CSS) since 2012. Her current research interests are mostly focused on higher education and school issues (e.g., trauma-sensitive school policies), gender equality, national identity and Europeanization issues. Mariam is an author and co-author of several research publications. Since February 2014 she has lead her own research and policy oriented organization - ‘Social Change Supporters.'
Maro’s PlayWrite Experience
PlayWrite was an incredible challenge for me; at some points I even felt scared. It was a huge responsibility towards Team Portland and the children who were on their way to participate in the first workshop of PlayWrite Georgia.
I felt so happy and relieved as soon as I saw the children’s excited faces on performance day. At this moment, I realized we had done it! PlayWrite was an unbelievably great experience for all of us. Now I feel so proud of my Team Tbilisi and I’m very grateful to PlayWrite Portland who made PlayWrite Georgia happen! April 28, 2016 was a historical moment – I feel positive this is only the beginning.