Nov. 12, 2014 Live from the road

Echuca, Vic - Shepparton, Vic

Reported by Grahak Cunningham, Stacey Marsh, Sukhajata Cranfield 63.0 km

As an auspicious start to the day, our whole team was fortunate to have the opportunity to board the "Emmylou" paddle steamer, part of the heritage of the great Murray River and cultural history of Echuca.

Our guard of honour.

The "Emmylou" was docked for the morning getting ready for its next sailing later in the day. So it was just us, Emmylou and the engineer - who was stoking the 1906 steam engine.

It was a great start to our day wandering around this grand paddle steamer ...

... evoking thoughts of yesteryear, when the river was a bustling thoroughfare of transport and commerce.

I think we would all like to have held the Peace Torch at the front of the steamboat and had it carry us down the Murray for a few km, as a greet way to get our daily mileage in!

But no, we soon disembarked, donned our running shoes and took flight towards Shepparton.

Our women's team took the first leg out of Echuca.

Wrong way?

Right way.

With only 75 km to run between 3 teams, we thought we had loads of time, but our 11 am appointment with Tiho, our local Shepparton Coordinator started to loom large, so those fast runs were introduced again, this time not for the fun of it, but to be sure we made it in time!

The speedwork takes its toll.

That is a great thing about running around the country: you can ‘speed’ and not get a ticket – just red faces and hot runners.

Today is the first day in over a week when we have not run alongside the Murray. We are taking a detour from the river route to visit Shepparton, a town with a close connection to the Peace Run and where we enjoyed a marvellous reception last year.

Thanks to our speed, all teams make it to be briefed by Tiho ahead of our first school – St George’s Road School were we were greeted by the presiding dragon.

Here we were led into the hall by Ila and Hamid who kindly held the banner for the entire time.

Principal Dougie Souter enthusiastically welcomed us to her school ...

... and introduced us to the 400+ students in the hall.

One group was positioned on the stage and just in front of it, and to start they sang a Peace song for us, complete with choreography!

One line that I remember was: "We are teaching peace in what we do and what we say”.

Looking around you could see what a culturally diverse school this is.

When Pranava asked any student who had a friend from a different country to please raise their hand, all we saw was a sea of hands!

I think this might have helped them a little in guessing all our countries because they were fast! Some students just yelled out the country straight away – they did get a little stuck on Iceland, but got it in the end.

Not everyone was certain about everything.

As we sang (and acted out) the Peace Run song I could hear some of the students at the back of hall singing with us, which was great to hear.

Tiho himself came to Australia from Serbia.

Ashlea Currie and Jackson Foenander, the two School Captains then came up to accept the Certificate of Appreciation on behalf of the school and also thanked us for coming.

With a little time left we then all went out onto the oval to hold the torch and make a wish for peace ...

So ends another wonderful school visit ...

... almost. When the students went back to class, we were led into the staff room for lunch. One of the staff had spent the morning making delicious sammies for us! The Chaplain, John Stewart, then joined us for a chat about this multicultural school. He commented how this school prides itself on being very welcoming and making the students feel safe, and a sense of belongingness. Of course there can be cultural misunderstanding as we are all brought up differently, but the beauty of living in a culturally diverse community is you learn and grow and start to appreciate our differences.

We dragged ourselves away to start making it to our next appointment across town ...

... at Notre Dame College.

Here we met with a reporter and photographer from the Shepparton News ...

... who record the occasion.

The Principal, John Cortese, officially welcomed us ...

... before we were taken to one of the classrooms to meet the students and share our presentation. Speaking to teenagers for the first time on our trip, we decided to give them some harder clues to try and guess our countries. Atul’s clue was he came from the country that invented the number zero... So who out there knows that! Yes you guessed it (or not): India! Impressively, Latvia was guessed pretty quickly too. Well done to all, we tried to stump you but couldn’t!

The students read a prayer, which read in part:
“Teach us to respect all cultures.
Help us to care for our land and waters.
Help us to share justly the resources of this land.
Help us bring about spiritual change to improve the quality of life for all groups in our communities, especially the disadvantaged.”

James Derrish came up to accept the Certificate of our Appreciation for their school.

We then went out to hold the torch, singly and in groups.

Next we went for a run …

... around the tree! ...

... which was a lot of fun.

The students then lined the footpath for us to run through before we left ...

... which was also so much fun, we did it twice.

It was now time to make it across town again to our final engagement of the day at the Shepparton Council Chambers.

Arriving a tad early, there was time for a brief breather in the park.

Jess, who works as a gardener for the city, had seen us running into town. She came over to ask about the Peace Run, and chatted for a while before she had to return to work.

Here is newly elected Mayor of Shepparton, Dennis Patterson – this was his first official day on the job and meeting with the Peace Run was his first official engagement!

The Mayor met us outside the Council Chambers before leading us to a small function, right outside the chambers.

Mayor Patterson welcomed us and introduced the Peace Run to everyone there.

The Mayor spoke of the great importance of Peace, stating that Peace is a big thing and to get big things to work, a lot of people have to think about it. Peace is the biggest thing out there and the more people who just start thinking about it the better it will become. He commented that it was great to see the younger generation doing just that and thinking about peace.

Our two School Captains from St George’s Road Primary School, where we had visited earlier today – Ashlea and Jackson – were there and both offered their thoughts on Peace.

Ashlea: “Peace to me means everybody is in a calm environment and everyone is free to do what they like. Nobody has the right to treat people disrespectfully. Peace to me means that you don’t have to deal with other people’s problems. That’s what peace means to me.”

Jackson: “Peace to me is a world full of people who care for each other and respect each other. This is what the world should be like with people who care about the environment and everyone else. This is what I feel when I’m around my family and friends. That is what PEACE means to me and my family."

Our small presentation to the Mayor.

Some of the Notre Dame College students came up to sing the World Harmony Run Song, with guitar and drums.

Wow! We wanted them to join us on the rest of the Run, such fantastic singing!

We humbly offered our Peace Run song in return ...

... though as Mayor Patterson pointed out, the Notre Dame students defeated us … but only just!

Then two students from the Second Language School who had both moved to Australia in the last year, spoke about what peace meant to them. Bahati Grace Nyangela spoke first:

“Peace is to have freedom and tranquillity from disturbances and from wars. When people live in harmony and when the children have a freedom to be Educated. That is what we call peace.

Everyone need peace in this world. Without peace we cannot have happiness in our lives. Having peace is good in our hearts.

We need peace in this world because the world is a beautiful place to live, it is a land full of milk and honey. If we have no peace in this world everything is meaningless, there is no respect for human life. Each creature should live by the peace of God. Sharing knowledge, natural resources and our environment ...

... If we don’t have peace we cannot love each other or we may not even trust each other at all.

Peace brings Love, Joy, Hope and happiness. When the country has peace everything goes well and people really care about their country. Peace is good in people’s hearts all the time.

My name is Grace Bahati Nyangela I’m 18 years old. I live in Shepparton. I’ve been here in Australia for one year. Before I came to Australia I lived in Africa in a country called Zambia. I was born in Congo but I grew up in Zambia. My family and I escaped from Congo to Zambia because of war and because in Congo there was no peace. We lived in the camp in Zambia; the camp was called Maheba. So the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees brought us here to Australia, because Australia is a peaceful country, and everyone is allowed to do whatever he or she wants to do here in Australia.

I cannot live without peace. Peace is really important to me, without peace for me everything is nothing. I may be rich in the future but without peace in my heart everything is meaningless to me. I can just declare that being a poor person but having peace, is more important than being rich without peace.

We came to Australia because we had no peace in Congo. My family was really poor in the Congo. But I have realised that everything changes with time. Now here in Australia we have peace in my family and everyone is now happy all the time.

Peace!!! Peace!!! Peace!!! Something that was made to encourage us and bring happiness in our heart. Peace to me and to everyone. Thank you!!!"

Then Taqi from Afghanistan: "What is peace? I believe we can’t solve the problems of the world without peace. Dear audience, peace is the most important thing in the world and the people should have peace. In some countries where they do not have peace it is very dangerous. People are killing each other and are being slaughtered by unknown cruel people who are their enemies which are not good, but why? The reason for this is because they don’t have peace. Peace is harmony! If the people have peace they would not fight each other ...

... How does peace happen? In my opinion we should have peace because it is the only solution that will stop the fighting and the killing. Peace brings happiness in everyone's life. So dear audience, if you have peace you will have a happy life and we will have a happy world. I believe everyone wants a happy life which is very good.

How does peace work? Peace is to have freedom from fighting and killing. The other important thing is the way we behave. If you respect yourself, families and others, that is peace! It is harmony as well! So when you respect each other and your family, your life will become peaceful.

In my conclusion I’m going to say: peace very good for everyone so please we should maintain peace in our country and our world.

Thanks, Taqi."

What a way to end our ceremony.

We then all gathered for a group photo. This is the first photo that our Mayor has added to his new mayoral Twitter account!

A moment's silence together to feel the peace in our own hearts.

With the formalities over, everyone was given the opportunity to talk, and meet all the different people there ...

... ad such a vast and diverse group we were!

There was constant chatter within many different groups all finding it easy to talk to each other and we all left uplifted and inspired by such a fantastic day.

Tiho, our Coordinator for Shepparton, had done such a wonderful job of arranging all of this. Talking with him afterwards, we tried to offer our gratitude for such an inspiring day. He commented that all he did was talk to some people and hoped he would be able to offer the true essence of the Peace Run to all he met. From what we have experienced today and the people we have met, his hope has been richly rewarded. We are already looking forward to returning to this peace-loving town!

This evening our accommodation has been organised by Tiho, our Shepparton Coordinator. We are staying in student accommodation at Melbourne University's Rural Health Academic Centre. It's fun having your own room and work station as well as washing machines and a great big kitchen. Everything a Peace Runner could want is right there. Thank you for allowing us to stay here tonight!

Torch carried by
Abhinandan Willis (Australia), Atul Arora (India), Felix Lindner (Switzerland), Grahak Cunningham (Australia), Kaspars Zakis (Latvia), Mikhail Vasilchenko (Russia), Nurari Merry (Great Britain), Prabhakar Street (Canada), Pranava Runar Gigja (Iceland), Stacey Marsh (New Zealand), Sukhajata Cranfield (New Zealand), Tihomir Djordjic (Australia), Yashodevi Samar (Ukraine).  
Kaspars Zakis, Prabhakar Street , Stacey Marsh
The torch has travelled 63.0 km from Echuca, Vic to Shepparton, Vic.

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