Until this day, the Peace Run had never previously visited Malawi, a landlocked country at the top of Southern Africa, so aptly referred to by Malawians as the "Warm Heart of Africa". But as part of the Southern Hemisphere Peace Run 2019, a team of three lucky Peace Runners (Abhijatri, Balarka and Penny) jetted in from South Africa to lead Peace Run events in Lilongwe and Blantyre. This was our Kenya Airways plane just before departure from Johannesburg. Our trip went via Nairobi, turning a 2.5 hour direct flight into an 8 hour "adventure", but saving us valuable funds for our week long visit to Malawi.
Our first stop was Lilongwe, the leafy and unhurried capital city of Malawi.
Malawi is a relatively poor country, but what it lacks in economics, it more than makes up for in cheerfulness, friendliness and warmth. Everyone we have met so far has been more than eager to help us in whatever way they could. Malawi is truly a jewel of peace in Africa. In this photo, two men on bicycles carry enormous bags of charcoal, a feat that must have taken years to master.
Although we did our best to organise school visits remotely from Johannesburg, our success was hampered by very expensive call costs and limited time. So we spent part of our first day visiting already contacted schools to confirm arrangements and new schools to try to set up visits for the following day. Our first visit was to Bambino Primary School where we were warmly welcomed by Mr Daniel Makuta, Headmaster (left) and Mr Kibacha, French Teacher (right). Mr Makuta is from Zimbabwe, while Mr Kibacha is from the DRC.
We then visited another school that was unfortunately unable to host us due to the following day being a special holiday. However, they were more than happy to hold the torch and offer their goodwill for peace...
... and the children at the school were equally eager to share their happy energy on this unexpected occasion.
We later discovered that we were expected at Chiuzira Primary School at 1:00 pm on this day and not the following day, as we had initially assumed. Our visit had been anticipated by both teachers and the learners with much enthusiam, which erupted into pure joy when we arrived.
The school had made special preparations for our visit, including preparing inspiring and uplifting posters of welcome and on the theme of peace.
Abhijatri started the presentation with a few words on what the Peace Run is all about.
It didn't take long for these children to guess the country of Penny's grandparents - China.
We truly did feel the warm heart of Africa at this wonderful school.
Penny led a much appreciated exercise on the theme of "where and how do we feel peace".
We received a very warm welcome from Mrs Andulire Chitete, Head Teacher. She radiated a powerful sense of poise and a real love for her learners and she extended this so tangibly to our small team. We felt blessed to come to her school.
Chiuzira School also put on several inspiring performances including this inspiring song sung in the Chichewa language.
The song included actions....
... which later became a dance. Penny is invited here by Mrs Chitete to join the performance.
Two school representatives were then invited up to symbolically carry the Torch into the school.
A special prayer was then offered in English and many of the indigenous languages of the various peoples of Malawi. It was a very nice performance.
The teachers then took time out to hold the Torch.
Here Mrs Chitete joins the other teachers of the school.
After the formal part of our presentation was over, we had a chance to run with the learners around the school field. It was a dusty affair, but was embraced by all with much enthusiasm.
We were very fortunate to have Brian Mwachande on our team, seen here running with the Torch. Brian was our taxi driver and we had only randomly met him a few hours earlier on the street near our accommodation.
Warm smiles abounded as we said goodbye to the school, our first school visit in Malawi nearly over.
Thank you Chiuzira school for a wonderful welcome, not only to your school, but also to Malawi. This was an experience we will never forget.