South Africa 21 September: Cape Town

UN Peace Day in Cape Town

Friday, 21st September dawned cool and overcast, but later blossomed into a beautiful sunny day. We were grateful not to have any rain on this most special of special days - the United Nations International Day of Peace. Our first appointment of the day was to be present with the Peace Torch at the opening of the Cape Town Marathon Expo. The Expo, which was being held at the Century City Convention Centre, was scheduled to be formally opened at 8:15 am.

The proceedings began with a ceremonial lighting of the Peace Torch by Elana Meyer. In this photo, the Torch is held by Penny Nam, while other special guests look on.

The Torch was then carried by Elana Meyer, Janet Welham (Race Director for the Cape Town Marathon) and other special guests to the entrance of the Expo. It was an occasion for celebration, especially for the Cape Town Marathon organisers, who could be proud of successfully reaching another important milestone.

The group then formally posed for photos both outside the Expo entrance and inside. Seen here from left are Mzwakhe Nqavashe, Janet Welham, Elana Meyer, Abhijatri Robinson and Shree Chirkoot, as well as others (we unfortunately did not get the names of everyone present).

After the opening of the Expo, we collected race entry packs for Cliff and Jarred, members of our team who would be running the marathon and 10 km Peace Run on Sunday, 23rd September, as representatives of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run. We then took a moment to enjoy morning tea at the convention centre. Our next appointment at Holy Cross Primary School was only at 11:00 am, so we had a few minutes to spare.

We arrived at Holy Cross RC a few minutes early. While we waited for the school to assemble, this boy was clearly very inspired and happy to hold the Torch. This was our second visit to Holy Cross RC and it felt like we were visiting old friends.

Our presentation was held inside. We clearly had before us a very bright group of learners, as it took them no time to correctly answer our questions or guess where each of our team members comes from.

Abhijatri led the presentation.

Here, we act out a short skit with Penny in the lead to demonstrate what is peace and what is not peace. It was fun for both us and the learners and there was a lot of laughter and applause for our very simple production.

Sri Chinmoy, the founder of the Peace Run, loved children and believed that the Peace Run should focus on children and young people as much as possible. We certainly found this group of young learners to be very interested and inspired by our presentation and the motto of the Peace Run, that "peace begins with me".

In this photo, Shree gives clues to the learners to help them guess where he is from. It didn't take more than a few seconds for them to guess correctly: "India"!

After our presentation, the learners filed out of the hall and each one had a chance to touch the Torch and make a wish for peace. It was clearly a very inspiring and joyful moment for many of them.

Lest we forget the the very important and often difficult role that the teachers in our schools play in guiding and grooming the young people of our nation, some of the teachers also took a moment to hold the torch. It was clear to us that the teachers at Holy Cross RC Primary are doing an amazing job in imparting both knowledge and understanding to the special young people in their care.

On a wall on the far side of the hall, we discovered this very beautiful painting, shown here with Shree posing in the foreground.

Our next school, Walmer Estate Primary, is only a short distance from Holy Cross RC Primary. A short way along our route, we discovered a waiting group of several young runners who we discovered had come to carry the Torch with us to our next school.

It was a good chance to get our lungs and hearts working as we had to run straight up a steep hill ...

... although it looked like an easy jog for our much younger team members.

The school assembled outside as soon as we arrived. By this time the sun had come out and the clouds of the morning were rapidly disappearing. Abhijatri once again led the presentaiton.

Table Mountain forms a spectacular backdrop at this school and the grandeur, timelessness and sheer size of the mountain looming majestically up behind the school seemed to make our presentation on peace all the more special and significant.

In this photo, Balarka gives the learners clues to help them guess where he used to live. It seemed that some of the older children remembered our visit from last year, as no sooner had Balarka stood up than we all heard were cries from the back of "New Zealand".

The learners were equally fast at guessing Shree's original country: India!

After our presentation, Principal Kamish addressed the learners, emphasizing how important peace is for each and every person in the school, as well as in the community, the city of Cape Town and the whole of South Africa. He described how there are currently many negative elements in the local community that are working against peace and it was therefore even more important that everyone in school took this message of peace very seriously, both for their own future and the future of their communities.

We were then treated to several inspiring readings of poetry and writings on peace by these young learners. A lot of effort had clearly gone into preparing for our visit.

Each learner quoted from a famous or inspiring historical person on the subject of peace. The list included Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

This learner then sang a beautiful song inspired by the theme of peace.

The final act of the day was a traditional dance by these young women. A lot of effort had clearly gone into rehearsing, as an elaborate dance choreographed to song unfolded.

At the end of our visit we had one last chance to run with the Torch, this time around the perimeter of the school.

We also invited these young performers to hold the Torch. They were all happy and inspired after a very successful performance.

Principal Kamish then invited us inside for refreshments. We also took the opportunity to pose with Principal Kamish and some of the other teachers.

We heard from Principal Kamish that he is due to retire from the school in the coming weeks. We were sad to hear of his imminent departure, as it was clear to us how much he cares about the school and the wellbeing of these young people. He assured us that although he would no longer be working at the school, he would still be actively involved in some aspects of the school and that he would be happy to welcome us again next year. Thank you Principal Kamish for another very inspiring visit to Walmer Estate Primary School.

With Walmer Estate Primary School as our last appointment of the day, we found ourselves with an afternoon free. We therefore took the opportunity to drive out to Boulders Beach near Simonstown where there is a breeding colony of African penguins. It is a beautiful place with white sand beaches, crystal clear water and rocky outcrops that make for a very picturesque location.

The forefathers of these penguins certainly chose a beautiful place for their breeding colony.

Several penguin chicks could be seen, some already moulting like this one and transitioning from their baby down to their adult feathers.

This was clearly a much younger chick who was happy to just rest on his mothers back.

The moulting or loss of feathers resulted in some quite comical looks.

Our last stop for the afternoon was Kommetjie Beach, a beautiful, seemingly pristine beach on the Atlantic Coast side of the Cape Peninsula. The beach is littered with kelp and small shells and the framing effect of the clouds above and the hills on each side was spectacular.

Although we would normally have been tempted to venture in for a dip, the frigid water soon tempered any ideas of swimming and we were content to just paddle in the shallow water.

And so our third day on the Peace Run in Cape Town came to an end. A beautiful end to another inspiring day and a fitting place to reflect on the significance of the United Nations International Day of Peace and just how important it is that each one of us, every citizen of this world, takes responsibility for the transformation of our world into a world of peace.