Namibia 30 September: Katima Mulilo

A giant welcome from Namibia

Today the Southern Hemisphere Peace Run is in Namibia. We have previously visited Windhoek and Swakopmund, but on this occasion, the vast distances and our intention to visit every country in the Southern Hemisphere prevents us from visiting more than just Zambezi Region in the far north-east of the country. We have been here once before as the World Harmony Run in 2008 and we have fond memories of that previous visit.

We have a very early start and our team rises magnificently to the challenge of breaking camp in the early hours of the morning. We say goodbye to our grassy campsite at the Caprivi Mutoya Lodge at 5:50 am with somewhat heavy hearts. We have spent a wonderful 16 hours at this beautiful site, surrounded by land, water and sky, as well as the sounds of birds and hippos, but it would be oh-so-nice to spend another day here. We hope to return soon.

We have arranged to meet with representatives of the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, which falls under the Zambezi Regional Council, at 6:20 am in Katima Mulilo. We arrive on time, but then there is a slight delay as Cliff has to fill up before we can drive the 40 km or so to the first school. The sun is just rising as we leave and head southwest on the B8.

Pictured here are Mr Simataa Mamili and Ms Susan Museke from the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture. Mr Mamili has made all the arrangements for our visit and we are immensely grateful to him, Ms Museke and Mrs Joy Mamili, who is the Regional Director of the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture for the Zambezi Region.

In addition to being the organisers for today's events, Mr Mamili and Ms Museke are also Peace Runners today, representing Namibia.

Our first school is Sachinga Combined School. Our meeting is held under the shady canopy of several large trees in the spacious and very sandy school grounds. Only selected classes are participating, although our visit also attracts much interest from the rest of the school.

We gather for a moment while the teachers and learners prepare and then the team runs in to begin the presentation and ceremony led by Tafadzwa.

The team assembles facing the seated learners with the choir to our left.

The ceremony is opened with a short speech by Mr AS Simataa, Head Principal. He warmly invites us to "feel at home and feel welcome". We do indeed feel "at home".

Abhijatri then introduces the Peace Run. It is just after 7 am and long shadows dance across the sandy ground in front of us.

Each member of the team then comes up one by one and invites the assembled learners to guess their country.

As usual, Pedja has to take an inventive approach to come up with new clues for his country: Serbia ... or is he representing Croatia today?

Ms Museke is our Namibia representative today. There is much joy and cheers when the learners guess her country.

After our presentation, the learners present their performances on peace. In the first one the learners have derived a meaning for each of the letters in the motto of the Peace Run, "P E A C E B E G I N S W I T H M E". It is a very well thought out and insightful performance. "P" stands for positive, "C" for community builds.

In the second performance, a skit, two girls demonstrate how not to be peaceful in a scene where one learner accuses the other of stealing her money.

It ends with a third learner intervening and pleading with the others to act in a manner of friendship and peace.

We are then treated to a play covering a quarrel to between a first and second wife, who are jealous of each other.

It ends with the husband pleading with them to act peacefully and with oneness.

Next is a cultural performance with music and dancing ...

... which brings much applause from both us and the assembled learners.

Abhijatri ends the ceremony by presenting Mr Simataa, the Principal, with a Certificate of Appreciation. It is very clear to us that this school has worked very hard to demonstrate how peace is something practical that can be applied to almost every situation in daily life. Thank you Mr Simataa and Sachinga Combined School for educating and inspiring us. Namibia is in very good hands with schools like yours.

Here Julia Mutwa, star of the play, poses with the Torch.

The last item on the programme is the planting of a mango tree, which the school is giving the name, "peace". With such sandy ground, digging a hole is an easy matter.

Two learners are selected to place the tree in the freshly dug hole.

We hope that "Peace" one day becomes a huge mango tree providing shelter, fruit and sanctuary.

It is time for us to race on to our next school. We have a very busy programme and we are late! A very big thank you once again Mr Simataa.

There is time for just one last photo with some of the actors from the school play.

A police escort is waiting to take us to the next school.

We are soon on our way running down the main road led by our new peace runner friend, Festus, who, as the chosen representative of Sachinga Combined School, will pass the Torch on to a representative of the next school.

It feels thrilling and inspiring to run on the main road within the safety of the police escourt.

But we are behind schedule and when we meet the representative of Bito Primary School, Dala Moben ...

... pictured here receiving the Torch from Festus, he heads off at a blistering pace and we are all eventually forced to surrender to his youth and speed.

The teachers and learners of Bito Primary School are ready and waiting when we arrive.

The team assembles, once again under the welcome shade of a large tree, and the ceremony begins.

Mr Mboozi is the MC. He explains the programme and extends a special welcome to us.

The learners wait patiently, perhaps looking forward to the school performances.

This young learner, Simataa Simataa, then leads the school in an opening prayer.

"Dear Lord. Teach me to trust in you so that when the unexpected storms of life come, I will expect peace in the midst of those storms ... "

Followed by the Principal, Mrs Pelekelo, who warmly welcomes us to her school.

Balarka then talks about why we run for peace and why Sri Chinmoy founded such a unique and powerful initiative.

Pedja leads the guessing game, today representing Croatia. "Which team narrowly lost in the final of the Soccer World Cup last year?"

Stacey is representing Australia today and acts out her clue to its most famous animal.

With a little help from the teachers, the learners manage to guess the countries correctly.

It's then time to showcase what the school has prepared for this special visit by the Peace Run team.

"May I be at peace.
May my heart remain open.
May I be aware of my true nature.
May I be healed.
May I be a source of healing to others.
May I dwell in the
Breath of God".

They also quote from the founder of the Peace Run, Sri Chinmoy"

"Peace we achieve
When we do not expect
Anything from the world.
But only give, give and give
Unconditionally
What we have and what we are".

Mrs Kella explains the "Art for Peace" display. "The hands", she explains, "signify peace, friendship and love".

This group of learners then recites a pledge for peace, including:

"Courageous people do not fear forgiving for the sake of peace".

And:

"I pledge to use my words to speak in a kind way.
I pledge to care for our Earth with my healing heart and hands.
I pledge to do my part to create peace for one and all".

These boys, John and Tommy, perform a series of synchronised moves to music. We are very impressed. The MC tells us that they are from the minority Khoisan people and that in Bito Primary School, ethnic diversity is actively celebrated.

These children then recite the word for peace in their home languages.

While these children sing a song.

Mrs Pelekelo then leads the teachers by taking a moment to hold the Torch and to make her own wish for peace.

Followed by some of the teachers.

Balarka concludes the ceremony by presenting Mrs Pelekelo with a Certificate of Appreciation.

Thank you Mrs Pelekelo and Bito Primary School for embracing the Peace Run so wholeheartedly. The commitment to peace shown by you, the teachers and the learners is inspiring and is also a great source of encouragement for our team.

The team, represented here by Stacey, also presents Mrs Pelekelo with a poster drawing from students of Kansai University in Japan. The poster offers a message of peace and friendship to Bito Primary School. The poster is the result of a project launched by Japanese Peace Runner Harashita Sunaoshi, who encouraged her students to take on this project as a way to connect with young people in Southern Africa and at the same time improve their English.

Mrs Pelekelo is delighted and surprised by this unexpected gift.

Here, Mr Mboozi adds his wishes and goodwill for peace to the Torch.

The ceremony formally closes with a prayer from learner Sango Sarah.

It is then time for group photos, first with the learners ...

... and then with the teachers.

Last but not least is the tree planting ceremony. We are planting another mango tree which is being dedicated to peace.

Tafadzwa volunteers to be the tree planter, a job which he ably accomplishes.

We hope to return one day to find a huge mango tree in this tiny sapling's place.

Our next school is in Katima Mulilo, approximately 40 km from Bito Primary. Sadly, we are late again for our next appointment and so there is no time for us to run. Instead we are escorted by the Police through Katima Mulilo and this saves us some time.

We are welcomed at St Kizito College by this cheering and enthusiastic group of learners. They have evidently spent much time preparing for our visit as many posters with the word "peace" shown prominently are held up.

The ceremony begins with a short prayer and then all the learners sing the school song: "Arise, arise, arise, O learners of Kizito ... " it begins.

Individual learners then step forward and recite the word for peace in their home languages. We are all surprised and delighted by how many different languages are represented at the school, some from within Namibia, but many from other countries in Africa.

This is followed by one, two or three learners coming forward and reciting beautiful and original poems on peace.

Elizabeth Tuezo Kachana says:

"Peace is our history and our future.
It is the camera that zooms on our future.
Peace makes sure we respect, love and honour each other.

It is our today,
It is our tomorrow.

Let us allow peace in our hearts,
Our schools, our country and our World.
For it shall forever be in our favour.

Peace to all".

Jessicah Nawa says:

"Earthly life ends in a flash.
Let it not end up in the trash.
Erase the traces of war
And let your hearts be cool
To banish the resentful spite of war and
Welcome the graceful angel of peace".

These learners then commit to the peace pledge displayed on this poster.

And then this learner from Zambia leads the group in a very catchy and inspiring rap song. It begins, "Your are my brother, you are my sister, you and I are one ... you are the ballpoint, I am the ink ... ".

This was followed by more poems. This learner is from Zimbabwe.

Once the performances from St Kizito College are finished, Stacey takes the floor and introduces the Peace Run.

While Stavey is speaking, the Torch is passed around so that everyone has a chance to share in the goodwill and wishes for peace.

And finally the main teacher leading this class today, Ms Karen Ilukena, who is the inspiration behind the many beautiful poems and performances we've witnessed, has a chance to hold the Torch. Her sweet and soulful smile is a testament to the depth of her feeling for peace.

Stacey then presents another poster drawing extending friendship and peace from the students of Kansai University in Japan to the teachers and learners of St Kizito College.

The poster carries the following aphorism from the founder of the Peace Run, Sri Chinmoy:

"Wherever you go
Carry happiness with you".

Stacey also presents a very well deserved Certificate of Appreciation to Ms Ilukena.

The last item on the programme is the planting of a peace tree.

This time we are planting a lemon tree. Thank you Ms Ilukena and St Kizito College for a very inspiring visit to your school.

Before we race on to our next school (we are late again), the two traffic policemen who have been escorting us between the schools, take a moment to join with us and hold the Peace Torch. Thank you officers for your support and assistance today.

On the way to the next school the Torch is once again officially passed from a representative of St Kizito College to a representative of Katima Combined School, our fourth school for the day.

We arrive and the whole school has already assembled in anticipation of our visit. We run through the school gate and on to the outdoor stage to a roar of cheers and waving hands.

Different classes are assembled at different locations, each group in the shade of a large tree.

To our right is the choir.

Fortunately, there is a PA system. The ceremony begins with a prayer, followed by the singing of the national anthem.

The Principal, Ms Winnie Mwazi, then begins her speech by getting a show of hands from each of the classes to confirm that everyone can hear - based on the shouts and raised hands, it seems that everyone can hear, which is good news.

After Ms Mwazi's speech, Abhijatri is handed the microphone. He gives a quick overview of the Peace Run and why we are here. Time is short and we know that the school has prepared many performances for our visit.

We do, however, have just enough time for the different members of our international team to introduce themselves. Here are Penny and Cliff, representing China.

Selected learners then line up to say "peace" in their own languages. Namibia is an ethnically diverse country with many minorities and there are therefore many local languages with their own unique words for peace.

And within the school, there are also learners from other countries in Africa. Here we hear the word for peace in kiSwahili: "Amani".

Next we hear from learners who have written poems on peace. The poems are instructive and insightful and for us as peace runners they offer a window into the dreams, aspirations and challenges of these bright, young people. It is inspiring to see the sincere and serious way in which they have each reflected on peace, what it means and what is important to establish peace in both Namibia and Africa.

Here are a few excerpts from some of the poems:

(1) Lyamupu Namasiku

"Africa my continent, Africa my hom.
From Nigeria to Zimbabwe.
Namibia my motherland ...

One love, one peace.
With freedom I say no to xenophobia ...

We are all born of one nationality.
That is the human race.
I am human before African.
We are all part of the rainbow nation.
United we stand, divided we fall.
One love, one peace!"

(2) Claire Mataba

"Spilling blood, waging war.
This has never been us.
We judge because of colour.
Racism has become a song in our choir ...

If this is the new Africa.
Then I'd rather be bound in chains
Than to see my continent change."

(3) Faith Limani Limbo quotes from the writings of Sri Chinmoy:

"Expect not!
Suspect not!
Peace is all yours."

"O dreamers of peace, come
Let us walk together.
O lovers of peace, come
Let us run together.
O servers of Peace, come
Let us grow together."

(4) Merry Mokoxwa:

"It does not mean to be in a place
Where there is no noise, trouble or hard work.
It means to be in the midst of those things
And still be calm in your heart."

Some of the poems touch on the recent xenophobia and gender based violence in South Africa. It is clear to us that all these learners want to take a personal stand against all forms of discrimination and violence. As peace runners, we salute you and share your dream.

This poster summarises the pain and commitment of these young people to peace following the recent violent events in South Africa.

"Violence has never been the answer!", "Love one another!", "Honour and respect women", are some of the messages.

We then hear an amazing singing performance from the choir.

To close this extraordinary ceremony, Abhijatri takes the floor once again to present Ms Mwazi with a poster drawing from the students of Kansai University who have offered a message of peace and friendship to the teachers and learners of Katima Combined School.

He also presents Ms Mwazi with a Certificate of Appreciation.

Thank you Ms Mwazi for a very inspiring visit to Katima Combined School.

The final item on the programme is the planting of a peace tree. On this occasion Pedja volunteers to be the tree planter.

Thank you Ms Mwazi. We hope that this tiny mango sapling will one day grow into a huge tree offering fruit, shade, sanctuary and peace to the learners of Katima Combined School.

Before we leave there are a few moments for some of the teachers and learners to hold the Torch and express their goodwill for peace.

We say farewell to Katima Combined School and speed on to our final school for today, Greenwell Matongo Primary. We have still not managed to catch up on our programme, so time is of the essence.

We are met not just by a single representative of Greenwell Matongo Primary, but by a whole team complete with Peace Run T-shirts and a huge Peace Run banner. The representative of Katima Combined School passes on the Torch and it is received by the Greenwell Matongo Primary representative. We then have a short run of about 500 m into the school grounds.

We join the Greenwell Matongo team and once again enjoy the freedom and protection of the police escort.

We are ushered into the spacious school grounds where a large marquee tent has been erected next to a seated group of learners. The Greenwell Matongo Peace Run team assembles under a tree, while the Peace Run team takes a welcome seat in the shade of the tent.

A cameraman from Namibia TV is waiting for us and takes a moment to capture some shots of the Greenwell Matongo team before the ceremony begins.

The ceremony is opened by the principal of Greenwell Matongo, Mr Malesu. He tells us that Comrade Greenwell Matongo brought peace to Namibia and "taught us to live in harmony, despite cultural, religious and traditional differences. Running for peace and harmony starts with you. It is a matter of heart - a heart that receives God."

Balarka then briefly talks about the journey of the Peace Run so far through Southern Africa and the amazing reception that the team has received in Namibia.

He finishes by presenting a poster drawing from the students of Kansai University to Greenwell Matongo Primary School. The world indeed feels like one large family as we stand here in this remote part of Namibia sharing this offering of peace and friendship from Japan to Namibia.

And then the presentation of a Certificate of Appreciation to Mr Malesu representing Greenwell Matongo Primary, our last school in Namibia on this long journey through Southern Africa. Seated next to Mr Malesu is Mr Esau.

We depart Greenwell Matongo Primary for our last appointment of the day, a visit to the offices of the Zambezi Regional Council, where we hope to meet Mr Lawrence Sampofu, the Governor of the Zambezi Region. We gather outside on the street and then run in together through the gates and on towards the main entrance.

A crowd has already gathered ...

... we make our way forward ...

... and the Peace Torch is passed to Governor Sampofu.

He receives it regally.

"Thank you for bringing the peace to us. Where there is peace, there is love. We wish the Torch, the Peace Torch, can go through all of Africa and the world. Our children need peace and education and peace in the world". These are some the words and wishes shared by Governor Sampofu.

Governor Sampofu passes the Torch to Police Commissioner Karel M. Theron. "The police also want peace. We are peace makers ... ".

The Torch is also held by a representative of the Namibian Defence Force who offers his goodwill for peace.

Balarka is then invited to share a few words on behalf of the Peace Run. He speaks of the journey of the Torch around Southern Africa, the schools in Katima Mulilo and of the solid commitment to peace witnessed by the Peace Run team in Namibia. "Namibia is an inspiration and shining example of a peaceful country for Africa and the world", he says.

Balarka then presents a Certificate of Appreciation to Governor Sampofu.

A learner from Greenwell Matongo Primary then shares a poem on peace that is filmed by the Namibia TV cameraman.

Governor Sampofu then poses for photographs with the peace runners of Greenwell Matongo, as well as the International Peace Run Team. Governor Sampofu is seen here in the centre holding the Torch with Commissioner Karel Theron on his left and Ms Joy Mamili on his right. Ms Mamili is the Regional Director of the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture for the Zambezi Region. It is thanks to the inspired and dedicated efforts of Director Mamili, who was ably assisted by Mr Simataa Mamili and Ms Susan Museke, that today's Peace Run in Namibia has been such a success. Thank you Director Mamili! We the Peace Runners from around the world salute you!

Here, Director Mamili is holding the Torch, while Police Commissioner Theron looks on. Mr Mamili, education inspector, is in the extreme left of the photograph, while Ms Museke is to the right of Director Mamili.

The ceremony finishes with smiles all round. Abhijatri then invites some of the staff from Zambezi Regional Council to also offer their goodwill and wishes for peace.

Everyone is happy. Who wouldn't be happy on day like today when we are all privileged to participate in a day dedicated to peace in a very peaceful country? Thank you Namibia!

Florbela also finds a moment to speak with Governor Sampofu.

After the ceremony has finished, we are asked by Mr Esau of Greenwell Matongo Primary if we would have time to return to the school to participate in a peace tree planting ceremony. We readily agree. Abhijatri entrusts the Peace Torch to the peace runners from Greenwell Matongo Primary for the return journey to the school. We follow behind with much delight as we see the Peace Torch paraded through the streets of Katima Mulilo by this young, enthusiastic and cheerful team.

Peace is indeed something worthy of great celebration.

Penny and Florbela are volunteered to be the tree planters at this school. They are planting two trees today, both lemon trees if I recall correctly.

They make short work of the digging, planting and watering ...

... and we are soon clapping for yet another young tree dedicated to peace.

There are a few final words of thanks expressed by both Mr Esau and Abhijatri on behalf of the Peace Run before it is time to set off for our next country, Zimbabwe.

Thank you Mr Malesu and Mr Esau for the great reception we have received from your school. Please keep up the good work.

And a very big thank you to Mr Mamili and Ms Museke for working so hard for peace and for making our visit such a success. Your oneness and dedicated service are humbling and we wish you the very best in your efforts to uplift the Zambezi Region and the whole of Namibia through education.

On our drive from Katima Mulilo to Botswana, the temperature reaches a sweltering 42°C! Less than a week ago, the same thermometer showed 1°C as we left Johannesburg!

Before we reach our final destination for today, which is the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, we have two borders to cross. There are forms to be filled in and passports to be stamped but ultimately we are successful in crossing both borders before 6 pm when the Botswana/ Zimbabwe border at Kazangula closes.

Thankfully we arrive at the Victoria Falls Rest Camp at around 7 pm, where we are greeted by members of our Zimbabwean team. They will be joining us for the last few days of the Southern African portion of the Southern Hemisphere Peace Run before the Torch moves to Burundi and East Africa with a completely new team. Here Florbela and Penny warmly welcome Shailajah from Zimbabwe.