South Africa 25 September: Johannesburg

A day in Jozi

The Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital was the first stop for the Peace Torch today in Johannesburg.

The Clinical Director, Dr Nkuli Boikhutso, welcomed the Peace Run to this world-class hospital, the flagship project of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund. Dr Boikhutso spoke of the long-standing friendship between Sri Chinmoy, the founder of the Peace Run, and Nelson Mandela forged many many years ago.

Expressing how each of these gentleman championed the cause of peace throughout their lives and how their teachings remain relevant today, Dr Boikhutso felt this was an opportune time to endorse the message of harmony represented by the Peace Run. Quoting from the founder Sri Chinmoy - "Peace reveals absolute excellence for human life".

Abhijatri then talked about the Southern Hemisphere Peace Run and the long journey that the Peace Torch has travelled this year. He spoke of the schools visited, the amazing children the team has met along the way, and the solid commitment to peace expressed by so many people. Many of these people also spoke of their shock at the recent outbreaks of xenophobia and violence against women in South Africa. Despite these dark days, the team witnessed a renewed committment to peace both in South Africa and other countries they visiited.

Abhijatri also spoke of the encouragement that Sri Chinmoy had received from Nelson Mandela during a private meeting in 1996 and how this is still a tremendous source of encouragement for the Peace runners around the world to this day. Mr Mandela told Sri Chinmoy, "What you are doing is in the interest of the entire humanity and the World".

The team then unveiled a large print of one of Sri Chinmoy's beautiful artwork entitled, 'Peace feeds the Children', which they presented to the hospital as a gift of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run. Dr Bhoikhutso was delighted to receive this unexpected gift.

Many of the staff came to be a part of the ceremony. Left to right - Oandise, Agnes, Pamela, Stella and Seba.

After the ceremony, Dr Boikhutso kindly took time out of her busy schedule to give the Peace Runners a tour of the hospital.

These child-friendly seats were desiigned by children and made us all feel like children again.

They used putty to create smaller versions of them.

And were then created into these fun seats that are throughout the hospital.

Some of the staff working at the hospital who were delighted to hold the Peace Torch.

We were fortunate enough to meet some of the children in the wards and show them the Peace Torch.

These two girls in the Renal Ward held the Torch and expressed their hopes that they would soon find kidney donors so that they could live normal lives and one day have their own families.

Dr Boikhutso receiving a Certificate of Appreciation from the Peace Run.

Monene and Hopewell came out as we were departing to hold the Peace Torch with the whole team, together with Dr Boikhutso.

The final school for South Africa on the Southern Hemisphere Peace Run was Crawford Preparatory School in Sandton. The team was welcomed and warmly received by Mrs Shirley Gray. Mrs Gray is a founding teacher at the school, which opened 21 years ago.

Bryce, Raihaan, Boni and Sandisa kindly held the banner throughout the whole presentation.

We had been warned that the students would be very bright, so the Peace Runners took care to choose hard clues for the country guessing game ... and yep they got them all right!

Ashima Tomar joined the team today, a local Peace runner from India, who lives in Johannesburg.

Soukaina Sabra came to receive the messages and artwork from the students in Japan. The artwork was prepared as part of an English language project led by a Peace Runner in Japan, Dr Harashita Sunaoshi, and expressed beautiful messages and drawings of friendship and peace.

After our presentation in the hall, the students moved out to the school field. Crawford school is in the heart of Sandton and will soon be surrounded by high rise buildings.

All the students then formed a circle around the field so that each of them could hold the Torch and express their joy and wishes for peace.

After the Peace Torch was passed the students had an opportunity to speak to the Peace Runners.

All of us enjoyed talking to the students.

Each class had selected two students to run with the Peace Torch. This had been done in the lead up to the event.

Each class had chosen the students that would represent them in the peace relay (around the school field) before the Peace Run team arrived.

Two classes from Grade 6 then escorted the Peace Run team to the tree that was to be dedicated as a Peace Tree. Mrs Gray is seen here on the right.

This tree was selected as it is a hardy tree that can grow and thrive through all adverse conditions, something Peace also has the power to do.

Each student took a handful of soil and placed it around the tree.

Mrs. Gray spoke about the Peace Tree as a symbol of hope for Peace in our hearts, our school, our country and the whole world. She also expressed her hope that as the students passed this tree or took shelter under it, they might take a moment to remember this.

Thank you Mrs Gray for making our visit to Crawford School possible. We look forward to coming back again soon.