Netherlands 3 June: Den Haag - Amsterdam

Mayors, politicians and Torch Bearer Awards

Our morning began with a visit to the IVIO school in Den Haag. This was our first school visit in Netherlands.

The children made an arch of honor for us to run through.

Abhinabha teaches the children the song.

Many of the children has created artwork and written beautiful poems.

Then we had a moment of silence for peace.

We all put our wishes and prayers for peace into the torch and passed it along.

Holding the Torch is always delightful!

This girl had written a very touching story about peace. We were very proud of her.

It is always great to run with our new friends.

Thank you for your generous reception!

The children of Eerste Nederlandse Montessori School welcomed us.

We shared our experiences from the road.

There were lots of interested questions from the students.

A good place for a sticker!

There were many excellent runners who accompanied us around the track.

The whole school.

A new four-legged friend.

A quick jog through downtown Den Haag on our way to the national Parliament building.

Duco Hoogland, a member of Dutch Parliament, formally welcomed us and encouraged us in our efforts.

He himself happens to be a good runner. Currently he is training for the famous Ropa Run, which is a relay run from Rotterdam to Paris.

He was happy to run a lap of the Parliament Building with us.

An interview with a local radio station, called FunX.

The reporters hold the Torch.

We countinued our tour of Den Haag with a visit to City Hall.

Mayor Jozias van Aartsen welcomed us to Den Haag City Hall.

We gave him a letter of greeting from Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, and he kindly gave us a message for the President which we will deliver in late October.

The mayor was interested in our stories.

He then lighted the Peace Torch to officially launch the Peace Run in The Netherlands.

Mayor van Aartsen kindly accompanied us for a short walk with the Torch.

Continuing our action-packed day we dropped in at a neighbourhood youth program in Amsterdam entitled Connect.

There we met with rabbi Lody van de Kamp (right) and youth worker Said Bensellam (middle), who are doing great work to bring the jewish and islamic communities closer together.

Connect was founded by Said Bensellam to help ensure young men of Morrocan descent in the neighbourhood had a positive place to grow up and serve their community.

Said then took us on a running tour of the neighbourhood with his Connect team members in tow.

On this location a painful incident took place, that sparked the beginning of Said's and Lody's cooperation. A few years ago a young boy insulted rabbi Lody here by making the nazi salute. Rabbi Lody and Said then decided to take action and have an open talk with the ill-informed youth that changed him for the better.

Since then they've done much to improve the relations between jews and muslims, and their open-minded approach has been very succesfull. For that reason we honoured both of them with the Torch Bearer Award.

Rabbi Lody got his one first, because he couldn't be at the official ceremony later tonight. He literally beamed with joy and gave a warm-hearted and spontaneous acceptance speech that touched us all deeply.

The two friends together with their medals and friends.

The Torch Bearer Award ceremony took place in a nice venue inside Amsterdam's beautiful Vondelpark.

This final event for today was dedicated to two extraordinary individuals who have dedicated their lives in a spirit of service.

Namana introduced our first recipient, Nicolien de Kroon, who for more than 18 years single-handedly organized the transportation of over 200,000 boxes of humanitarian aid to warstricken areas.

Her motivation was to give the children in those areas new hope and joy, and so she often sent stuffed animals to children in places like Bosnia, Irak, Chechenia, Kurdistan, India, and many others.

She was visibly moved by the award and gave a glowing acceptance speech.

Then finally Said Bensellam received his Torch Bearer Award for his great work to give young streetkids a purpose and a bright perspective on their future.

In a bizarre coincidence it turned out that Nicolien and Said knew each other from the past when Nicolien was a youth worker in Amsterdam and the young Said was one of the children she worked with. Said was a bit of a troublemaker in his youth, and his mission is to help the youngsters who are struggling with the same problems he faced when growing up.

The two laureates, their family and friends and the Peace Run team. Thank you for an unforgettable evening, full of heart-power.