Malawi 18 June: Blantyre
Final day of the Malawi Peace Run
Our final day on the Peace Run sees the team visiting schools in Blantyre. We hadn't realised that Blantyre is one of the oldest urban centres in Southern Africa having been established in 1876. It is older than Johannesburg in South Africa where the core members of our team currently live. Everyday is a school day, and we love to learn new things!
We start our day at Ntonya International School that is both a primary and secondary school. We also welcome Funwayo on our team. He started the running club #Run265 with his friend Modecai because of his love for running and his enthusiasm for life. He was inspired to start #Run265 as a way to bring about change for good through comaraderie and a love of running.
Here Balarka addresses all the learners introducing our team and sharing how happy we are to be in Blantyre, and in Malawi. Sri Chinmoy, the founder of the Peace Run, wanted the message of having peace in our own lives to spread across the length and breadth of the world. In Malawi, we've all felt how peace is not a mere word, or a sentiment here, but something truly tangible. Balarka tells all of us here that we want the world to know how much peace Malawi has and as it is truly a living example of what it means to have peace within.
When we asked who wanted to sing a song with us, these young learners spontaneously ran up to the stairs alongside us to sing the World Harmony song, a song they hadn't heard before. It was a first, and of course, was very sweet and heartwarming for us to share the stage with them. Wouldn't it be great to live so spontaneously in the heart as children do?
One of the highlights is to hold the Peace Torch to make a wish for peace. Beautiful smiles. Funwayo passes the Torch along for each one in the school to hold.
Thank-you Ntonya International for hosting us at your school. Here Balarka hands a copy of a painting that Sri Chinmoy created called, "Evening Peace" to one of the school's teachers.
Here Balarka holds the Peace Torch with Mr Christopher Wachepa, the principal of Ntonya International School.
Our second school of the day is to Hillview International School. It is also a primary and secondary school. Balarka leads the morning presentation again, and we can feel that he's held the attention of all present as he speaks so warmly about the Peace Run. We also know that his talk has captivated the attention of the learners through all the engaging questions they ask him later.
A group of young learners made peace flags to welcome our team. Our main message that we try to share in schools and with all we meet is that, "Peace begins with me." Handwritten on the flags that the children have made is, "Peace begins with us." We love this too as it is all inclusive, and if we work together we can all strive for peace.
The torch was passed around the hall so that the teachers could hold the torch to make a wish for peace.
These little ones don't join us later to run on the field with the torch and instead Funwayo passes the torch around for each to hold.
Penny walking to the field with the same group of learners that made the peace flags who chant, "Peace begins with us."
We were told that when the learners heard a Peace Torch was coming to their school, they imagined a typical battery lit torch with light bulb. When they saw a flaming torch that didn't blow out, even in the wind, their excitement grew tenfold. We could tell as everyone wanted to hold it.
Our visit to Hillview International School also coincided with sports day for some of the classes. We think these are the team mascots, or perhaps they will have a teddy bear's picnic after.
There will be a number of track and field competitions including high jump. Here the learners gather into a circle for each to hold the Peace Torch. As part of the opening ceremony of the sports day, there is a short relay run where runners run with the Peace Torch and pass it on to the next runner. How fitting!
Thank-you Ms Charmaine Bramsen, the Head Teacher of Hillview International for the very warm welcome (shown to the left of Funwayo). Teachers are often the unsung heroes of our time, such valuable members of society and role models to our youth. It's apparent how your personal touch and dedication to the upliftment of all the learners here is something you care deeply for. We wish we could have schooled here too! By the way, is there any learner that you don't know by name?
This is our last school of the day, St Pius Primary Catholic School, which has a separate section for boys and girls. For our meeting, Mr Joseph Gama and Ms Hariet, the deputy head teacher and head teacher for the boys and girls primary schools, respectively, have decided to combine for our meeting. Here Mr Gama is shown introducing our team to all of the learners.
Balarka introducing our team and the symbolic meaning of the Peace Torch. He shares with the learners that this is the Peace Run's first ever visit to Malawi and how much we love being here. It is one of 44 countries that the team will be visiting this year as part of the first ever Southern Hemisphere Peace Run. A time for firsts!
Funwayo introducing himself to the learners. He is from a country that is shaped like a sweet potato.
As our presentation was held outside we weren't sure if everyone could hear. But when it came time to feel a moment of stillness and peace in our heart, we could see that sometimes actions are stronger than words.
We made two large circles to pass the Torch around. First we passed it along for the girls to add their wishes for peace.
Here, a teacher stands on behalf of Ms Hariet to accept our certificate of appreciation to St Pius Girls primary.
The St Pius Secondary school is located on the same premises and were in the midst of writing their final exams. Rather than getting the learners to run with the Peace Torch we end our presentation with a peace walk around the school premises.
Thank-you Blantyre and Malawi for a most precious few days with you. We've had such an incredible experience and learnt so much about the power of gentleness and kindness. What it may lack in money power, Malawi makes up abundantly in heart power. We know you've won us over. You are indeed the Warm Heart of Africa!
Our visit to Malawi would not have been complete without a visit to one of the great tea growing regions of Africa. The town of Thyolo, about 50 km south-east of Blantyre is renowned for its fertile and moist highlands, where tea has been farmed for nearly a century.
Our team was very fortunate to be invited to spend a night with friends at Satemwa Tea Estate. It is an incredibly beautiful and visually soothing landscape with bright green tea fields stretching out in every direction, interspersed with narrow valleys of lush, tropical rainforest.