Kuimba Shiri Bird Park near Harare was dedicated as an International Peace Park as part of the Sri Chinmoy Peace Blossoms Programme in April 2014. The dedication ceremony was such a success that Gary Stafford, owner and founder of the park, invited members of the Peace Run team to anniversary celebration events in both 2015 and 2016. This year's event was held on Saturday, 30th April. Gary had invited a wide spectrum of people to attend, including several distinguished guests.
Kuimba Shiri is located in a beautiful sylvan setting on the shores of Lake Chivero. The day's ceremony began with a Peace Walk from a nearby game park to Kuimba Shiri, a distance of approximately 7 km. This was followed by a special Peace Blossom anniversary ceremony at Kuimba Shiri.
Gary had also invited two journalists from "Harare News", a local newspaper with a community focus, to cover the event. Seen here with the Peace Torch and the peace blossom plaque in the background is one of the journalists who attended.
We were extremely fortunate and grateful that among the distinguished guests attending the event was the Charge d'Affaires and acting ambassador for the Embassy of India to Zimbabwe, Mr S. Rajendran and his esteemed wife, both seen here with Gary Stafford of Kuimba Shiri Bird Park. In fact, the entire embassy staff attended the event, a great honour for both the Peace Run and Kuimba Shiri.
Mr Rajendran is seen here with another distibuished member of the Embassy of India to Zimbabwe and Abhijatri Robinson of the Southern African Peace Run team.
Gary had arranged a tractor and trailer to carry everyone participating in the Peace Walk to the start. We somehow managed to fit approximately 35 people on to the trailer! Seen here is Mr Pankaj of the Embassy of India with Abhijatri behind.
It was a beautiful day and we travelled through patches of what seemed to be near pristine Msasa woodland on our journey to the start.
The remainder of the walkers travelled by landrover.
Many of the staff from the Embassy of India joined us for the tractor ride.
On arrival at the game park we were all delighted by this amazing sight, an approximately 200 year old tortoise, who seemed to be very interested in joining us for the peace walk.
Soon after the peace walk began with a short loop around the game park. On this occasion we only managed to catch a glimpse of a small herd of zebras galloping through the trees, but no giraffes as we had seen the previous year. However, it was still the perfect setting for a peace walk and was enjoyed by all.
Our group of approximately 50 walkers all set off at different walking paces, so we soon became a bit spread out. However, everyone was in a very peaceful and joyful mood, enjoying both the scenery and the company.
Part way around we stopped in a patch of shade to wait for the slower walkers to catch up. Although Mr Rajendran did not come prepared for a walk, he did not hesitate to exchange his jacket for a Peace Run T-shirt and become a peace walker!
Here the cheerful and joyful faces of our good friends, Martin and Talkmore, show the power of the Peace Run - which on this occasion brought together so many people from so many different backgrounds in a spirit on oneness and peace.
Mr Rajendran and Abhijatri also had time to talk more about the Peace Run and the founder of the Peace Run, Sri Chinmoy, who was from India and who as a young man attended the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, just 50km from where Mr Rajendran grew up.
The walk took in some of the unique balancing rock scenery so typical of Zimbabwe.
The run was also supported by members of Rotary International, who very generously kept the walkers hydrated with bottles of water on this hot, sunny day. Here Alice, of Rotary, carries the Torch.
Members of the Embassy of India enthusiastically carried the torch.
Here, Tafadzwa Makwara, of the Zimbabwe Peace Run team had a moment to enjoy carrying the torch.
Tafadzwa was joined by Victor, a regular visitor at Kuimba Shiri, and his wife.
And here journalists from the Harare News newspaper carry the torch.
The scenery was spectacular.
For a short distance, the peace walk became a peace run!
And finally, much to the relief of many of the walkers, we reached the gate of Kuimba Shiri ...
... where the guards at the gate took a moment to pose with the Torch.
For the final stretch of the walk to the lakeshore, the Torch was carried by this very poised young peace walker. We hope that she will one day be a member of our Peace Run team!
We were met by other enthusiastic and distinguished guests who had not been able to join us for the peace walk. Here the Torch is held by Mr Chikanda (wearing a suit), Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Institute of Diplomacy. Mr Chikanda was recently awarded a prestigious peace prize. On Mr Chikanda's right is Beloved Makina of Rotary International.
Walkers and supporters alike then posed for a group photograph.
A ceremony was then held at which Gary Stafford talked about the history of the peace walk and the dedication of Kuimba Shiri Bird Park as an International Peace Park under the auspices of the Sri Chinmoy Peace Blossoms. Mr S. Rajendran of the Embassy of India then gave a moving speech in which he talked about Kuimba Shiri, Sri Chinmoy and Gary Stafford. He said that, "for Sri Chinmoy, the world was not made of continents, or countries with demarcations", and that "the major part of his life was dedicated to spreading the message of peace". He also honoured Gary Stafford for the very important conservation and peace work that he is doing in Zimbabwe.
The ceremony was informal, but profound and after the peace walk felt very much like a gathering of friends.
Balarka then said a few words on behalf of the Peace Run, at which he thanked Gary Stafford for his tremendous effort in organising the whole event. He also thanked Mr. Rajendran (for honouring the event by bringing the entire staff of the Embassy of India), as well as Mr Chikanda of the Zimbabwe Institute of Diplomacy and other distinguished guests.
Abhijatri presented Mr Rajendran with a copy of the "Wings of Joy", a book by Sri Chinmoy on the theme of inner peace.
Before the event came to an end, there were a few more photos with the Torch by old and new friends of the Peace Run ...
... including Demelza Benbow and her family from Malawi who enthusiastically joined in the ceremony after hearing about the event only that morning. Demelza also invited the Peace Run team to undertake a Peace Run in Malawi!
Here, members of Rotary International hold the Peace Torch, together with Gary and Abhijatri.
Our final introduction of the day was to the family of Flora Chinhaire of the Pathways Autism Trust, an organisation which she and her husband founded for the training and care of autistic children. Flora was profoundly grateful for having been included in "such an amazing event" and only had positive things to say of her experience. We wish Flora and her family the very best for their very important work for autistic children.
Sadly, on this occasion the team did not have time to stay for the daily bird show given by Gary Stafford, which Tafadzwa, seen here at the amphitheatre for the show, attended at the 2014 dedication ceremony.
Thank you Gary for another very well-organised event! And thank you to everyone who participated in the peace walk and peace ceremony. We hope that you all had a memorable and peace-filled day!