Vanuatu 5 February: Port Vila

We experience Vanuatu's big heart....

People in Vanuatu get up early! Our day started at 5am with sunrise and roosters at full volume. Our first school visit was at 7.30 at Seaside Community School.

Everyone was getting back to school today and we were very fortunate that they could accommodate us first thing in the morning.

The children hold the torch and make a wish for peace...

Sophie kindly combined her Year 6 class together with the Year 5's so we could spend sometime with both. At the end of the ceremony she spoke very movingly about the vital need for peace in our lives.

Our second school was Vila East Primary School. The principal Haward Mala introduced the school to us...

...and brought us into his classroom.

Some of the activities required a bit more space and so we moved out into the courtyard. Here we are, acting out some skits to the enjoyment of the children.

We ask children where they can feel peace within themselves, and the answer always is - inside the heart.

The children pass the torch from hand to hand, from heart to heart....

...and make a wish for peace

Some of the other classes want to see what's going on....

The kids' favourite part - a run with the Peace Torch!

Principal Mala gets in on the act - a big thank you for being such a gracious host!

At Vila East, Harry from FM 107 (left) was waiting to interview us for his 10am radio program, the most listened-to radio station on Vanuatu. Sometimes you can see how much journalists have grasped the concept of the Peace Run by the kind of questions they ask, and Harry asked really beautiful and insightful questions! He said that all the citizens of Vanuatu must come to our ceremony at the National Stadium later that afternoon, because it was so important. In this photo, Harry is having a little fun with his friend and our team member and guide for the day, Matthew.

A quick drive by the market at Port Vila on our way to the next school - open 24 hours a day and selling the most delicious fruit!

Our next stop was Central School - we were met by the hard working admin staff Kathy and Steven and take a picture in front of the school crest.

Two of the international team perform a skit for the children - two runners run a race, they push each other, and both end up on the floor! We ask the kids - is this Peace? or not Peace?

The answer seems pretty unanimous.

"Eventually, each human being will be able to discover his heart’s oneness-peace-bliss-treasure." - Sri Chinmoy, Peace Run Founder.

Accepting the Certificate of Appreciation on behalf of the school....

When the torch was passed around, you could feel that each and every child was adding their own deepest wish for a better world.

We were joined by the principal, Alex Heytey, who added his own wishes for peace.

We say good bye and head on to our next adventure...

We had a little time before our next event, so we ran along the beachfront.

Matthew prepares some of the delicious fruit we bought at the market.

Wherever we went, there were people curious to find out more about us and our Peace Torch.

Our next school was Vila Seventh-Day Adventist school, where we had an enthusiastic group of over 100 students of all ages.

They really liked our rendition of the World Harmony Run song!

Passing the torch from pupil to pupil...

Hands and smiles together for peace.

Thank you to David, the principal, and Lisa who participated in our ceremony.

And finally - a record-breaking lap of the school grounds with the Peace Torch!

We then ran the 5km to our next school, Port Vila International School.

By it seems that many people had heard the radio interview and also the newspaper that came out in the Vanuatu Daily Post, and wanted to come out and hold the Peace Torch

We arrived at Port-Vila International School and were taken to a waiting group of Year 3 and Year 6 students assembling under a beautiful tree, which gave us some protection from the impending rain.

The Principal, Sarah Chambers, really touched us with her enthusiasm and welcome for the Run

These kids are really smart - they guessed the countries that we came from in no time!

Because they guessed all our countries of origin right, we have to sing them a song...but they can help us by doing some actions along with the words!

A moment of silence, to allow us to feel the peace that we naturally have inside us.

Our next stop was Korman Stadium - Vanuatu’s national stadium, where we were joined by our friend Henry Tuvoa the CEO of the Vanuatu Association of Sports and Olympic Commitee (VASANOC).

Our guests took a little time to join us - apparently there was a van broken down on the main approach road which stopped all traffic for a while! Despite the traffic problems and the heavy rain, we were very fortunate to have the company of some esteemed guests.

We were happy to Matthew Kalotiti from UNICEF in Vanuatu join us.

We were also joined by Ivan Oswald from Vanuatu Aquatics, and his 3-year old son Louie, whose big thing at the moment is water puddles.

We were also fortunate to have two of Vanuatu's top athletes - Jack Lelo, who represented Vanuatu internationally in the marathon and is now a representative of Vanuatu Athletics

...as well as Andrew Mahit, one of Vanuatu's best 100 meter sprinters.

Our Austrian runner Vaibhava was a bit of a sprinter himself in his youth, so they have a friendly race. They are joined by Mr Yohann Lemonnier (far left), Public Affairs Unit Manager with the Australian High Commission, who was representing the High Commissioner today.

Vaibhava and Louie hold the torch - this kid has a future ahead of him!

Henry recieves our Certificate of Appreciation, as well as an artwork on the theme of World Harmony created by the Founder of the Peace Run, Sri Chinmoy.

Jack and our Brazilian runner, Akrura, are all smiles.

Later on Neveserveth Rocky Jean Michel, Senior Officer at the Department of Youth and Sport, joined us. He told us the Minister for Youth and Sport could not join us today, but sent his best greetings. Rocky had procured a lovely sandalwood tree which will be dedicated as a Peace Tree and planted in the grounds of the National Stadium to commemorate the visit of the Peace Run.

Our last appointment of the day was a return to Tagabe Parish where we met with the Rev. Collin Sosori, as well as seeing again the Regional Secretary Mr. Selwyn Leodoro, who happens to be the uncle of our friend Henry Tavoa from the Vanuatu Association of sports!

There is a tree in the grounds that has already been dedicated as a Peace Tree, and from now on it will have a lovely Peace Run plaque to supplement it.

Rev. Sosori provided a very beautiful blessing for the Torch and a prayer for the Team's success.

We then decided to head to nearby Mele Bay for a swim, but it seems that our Peace Run day had not finished yet!

We met many people there and most of them had heard about the Peace Run courtesy of the article that appeared that day in the paper.

The owner of the nearby Beach Bar was very happy to meet us and hold the torch. We decided to have dinner there, and found free green smoothies being placed on our table! Obviously she knows the best way to keep us running...

And so our visit to Vanuatu ends...but we will certainly be back! We take the wishes and blessings of all the kind-hearted people that we met on to our next location, the Solomon Islands. Tangkyu tumas!