It was with great anticipation and enthusiasm that we headed into Soweto for our first day of the Peace Run in South Africa. On our agenda was a run through this historic satellite-city of Johannesburg, as well as visits to five primary schools.
Nka-Thuto Primary School
First stop was Nka-Thuto Primary School where we were warmly welcomed by the Principal, Mr Arryabo. Joining our small core team on this day was our good friend Chane Cloete from Johannesburg, as well as a local Soweto running club that had enthusiastically accepted our invitation to be part of the Soweto Peace Run. Sadly, due to car trouble, the running club was unable to join us, so it was all hands on deck for our small team as we rediscovered the delights of this bustling city and its vibrant schools.
Everyone enjoyed the game of guessing the country or city where our team members come from. Here, Chane challenges the children to correctly guess the other name for the "City of Gold" where she lives.
Danny was once again our nominated presenter for teaching the World Harmony Run song and the accompanying actions, performed here with great dynamism and joy.
Due to time constraints, it was unfortunatley not possible to give everyone a chance to hold the torch, but we did have time to mingle with a few of the children ...
... and the teachers.
Here Mr Arryabo addresses the children. His natural warmth and love for the children were obvious and tangible.
After Nka-Thuto Primary School it was a short run to Thabisang Primary. Along the way people waved and tooted their horns as we passed. Pedestrians enthusiastically held the Torch.
Thabisang Primary School
We have been to Thabisang Primary School twice before (2008 and 2010) and on both occasions it was a highlight of our Run in Soweto. Here some of the younger students formed a welcoming guard of honour as we ran into the school.
The school had put together a special programme highlighting the importance of peace, especially world peace, and had also made two posters on this theme.
This young boy recited a very moving poem which finished with the words: "Peace is not spread by war, peace is spread by love".
This young girl was MC for the programme, a role which she performed effortlessly with confidence and warmth.
Whenever there was a short break in the programme, the children would take up the chorus of a touching song on love and peace. It really melted our hearts.
By the time it was our turn to say something about the Peace Run, Balarka was almost speechless. He told the assembled children and teachers that they had captured the essence of the Peace Run and that there was hardly any need for him to say anymore.
But the programme went on and here Steve delights the children as they try to work out the clue to his ancestral homeland, "I come from the country which is the origin of the marathon and whose name rhymes with peace."
These children really tried hard to feel peace and the tranquitity in the hall was tangible.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, we were so touched and impressed by the peaceful spirit of Thabisang Primary School, the effort to which they had gone to embrace the Peace Run, and the conduct of all of the children, that we decided to present the very special Torch Bearer award to the school.
Another one of the beautiful posters prepared by the school.
These children had been selected to participate in a small peace run around the school and they couldn't wait to get going!
But before the run around the school could start, everyone had a chance to hold the torch and make a wish for peace.
Chane had the enjoyable task of handing out Peace Run bookmarks to everyone.
Thabisang teachers offer their goodwill as they hold the Peace Torch.
After the ceremony, we took a moment to chat to Mrs Yvonne Mabange, School Principal. Here she is with the Torch Bearer award. She treated us so kindly and made us feel so welcome, it really felt as though she was a longtime member of our team.
Even the security guard at the school gate touched us with his warm smile and kind words.
From Thabisang, we ran though the heart of Orlando, a suburb of Soweto, to Mbuyisa Makhubu Primary School, right next to the Hector Peterson memorial.
It was heartening and inspiring to be embraced so warmly by the peace and kindness of the people and places of Soweto.
We knew we were in Johannesburg as the gold mining tailings dams were a dominant feature of the horizon.
Our team didn't actually run every step of the way!
Mbuyisa Makhubu Primary School
As we approached the Hector Peterson memorial along a street lined with vendors selling carvings, t-shirts and all sorts of local memorabilia, we had a glimpse our welcoming committee at Mbuyisa Makhubu Primary School.
They cheered and clapped as we ran in through the gates.
The team did a victory lap of the school grounds and then assembled in front of the largest group of children, who were all seated under the shade of some trees.
We also caught a glimpse of the famous Soweto cooling towers, which are a prominent landmark in this part of Soweto.
As our nominated driver, Abhijatri entered the scene a few minutes after everyone else, but received just as warm a welcome.
Mrs Sambo, school principal, gave a very moving speech about the Peace Run as she introduced us to the school.
The children in this school really loved the game of guessing where we all came from, but "America", where none of our team members come from, was probably the most popular answer!
Balarka made things a bit harder for them, but they got there in the end.
Chane led us all in an exercise to feel peace inside our hearts.
The Torch was at once feared and revered. It was a windy day and nobody was keen to be on the downwind side of the flame.
Mzamo Primary School
Just a short way down the road from Mbuyisa Makhubu Primary, we entered Mzamo Primary, our next school. The children were still enjoying break, so we had a few minutes to mingle with them. They were very curious about us and took great delight in teaching us a few words of Zulu.
After the ringing of the bell, the children assembled in front of the main school building and our presentation began.
Because we had already interacted with many of the children, it was nice to look out into the crowd and see so many familiar friendly faces.
Thank you Mzamo Primary for another special and unique Peace Run experience.
Shomang Primary School
Our last school for the day was Shomang Primary. We arrived a few minutes early and had a chance for a short break while the school assembled.
This was one of the roses in the school garden.
We had many good memories from our last visit to Shomang Primary in 2010 and it was so nice to once again be back at the school.
We were delighted and touched by the school choir, which sang our Peace Run song so beautifully.
Shree was the nominated presenter for the Peace Run team.
Abhijatri gave them a joyful challenge as they tried to guess the land of his birth which "has one of the largest and most spectacular waterfalls in the world".
While Steve challenged them to guess the country of his the origin, which was the host nation of the very first Olympic Games.
Danny came up with a sea of blank faces as he put on the accent of his adopted homeland, New Zealand.
For Chane, it was simply "I come from the City of Gold", but it took a few moments for someone to come up with the correct answer, "Johannesburg".
As always, having a chance to hold the Torch was one of the highlights of our visit.
Here some of the teachers join us in holding the Torch.
While the school choir holds the Torch here.
Thank you Shomang Primary for embracing the Peace Run so wholeheartedly!
And thank you Soweto for so enthusiastically accepting our invitation to participate in Peace Run 2015!
Torch carried by Abhijatri Robinson(South Africa),
Balarka Robinson(South Africa),
Daniel Rubin(New Zealand),
Shree Chirkoot(South Africa),
Steve Polykarpou(South Africa).