Zimbabwe is the 7th country that our team and the Peace Torch are passing through and today, it is sadly also our team's last day of official visits to schools. After today we pass the baton onto our other friends, and an entirely new team, who will carry the Peace Torch through countries in East Africa completing the African section of the Southern Hemisphere Peace Run.
We are in Victoria Falls, located on the north-western tip of Zimbabwe and famous of course, for one of the most beautiful wonders of nature, the majestic waterfall of the same name.
This is the second time that the Peace Torch has been to Victoria Falls, having last visited in 2010. Our first port of call for today is a visit to Victoria Falls Primary School. Our team will only spend half a morning visiting schools in Victoria Falls though as we've also arranged to cross the border into Zambia, our 8th and final country for our team.
It was a welcome change to address all the learners and teachers in the school's large open-air, outdoor hall that had a view to their beautiful pool and school grounds. We were told that there have been occasional curious onlookers at the pool watching learners swim from time to time; and these were none other than a large gathering of elephants at the foot of the pool. Who'd have believed it, but we've seen photo evidence!
...and now you have too. Anyone fancy a swim?
We were super excited to have not one but four new Peace Runners join our team in Zimbabwe today, boosting not only our numbers, but our joy too! A heartfelt welcome Takudzwa (who is also Tafadzwa's identical twin brother), Shailajah (Tafadzwa's aunt), Joylene and Amelia.
As always, everyone had a fun time guessing all our countries.
And with such an international group of learners at Victoria Falls Primary School we made the hints a little harder, but still they got them all.
With all the open space in the hall, Tafadzwa thought he'd put Pedja and Cliff's sprinting abilities to test while demonstrating what is peace, and what is not.
Everyone all took a few moments to feel peace in their heart.
Here Miss Latimer and the Grade 6 learners share some of the activities they've been involved in over the past few weeks in the lead up to our visit. One such activity includes trying to live more sustainably and being more conscious of the environment, and in a practical way for them, it meant saying no to single-use plastic. Learners have opted instead to use one of their own bags and even approached managers of stores to politely ask them not to dispense plastic straws to customers. Having received some positive responses, this in turn has shown the learners in a very tangible way, that if we try, our actions can make a difference.
Miss Latimer also reminded us all that Saturday, 21 September was UN International Peace Day, a day that she also celebrated with her class.
The Grade 6 learners each folded a Japanese origami paper crane to welcome the Peace Run's arrival at Victoria Falls PS. Legend has it that if one folds a thousand paper cranes that one's wish will be granted, and here the Grade 6's have folded paper cranes as a symbolic gesture to wish for a world of peace. Thank-you for such a noble wish, which we whole-heartedly wish for too.
Each learner with their Peace Cranes - such works of art.
Sinothando read a poem on peace.
This is the second time that Miss Latimer has held the Peace Torch; she told us that in 2013 she saw an advertisement for a walk for peace at the Kuimba Shira Bird Park Sanctuary in Harare and that each one would have an opportunity to hold the Peace Torch to make a wish for peace. Peace is something close to her heart she said, having studied political science at university and completing her masters on the topic of peace. We felt it was fitting to give our Certificate of Appreciation to Miss Latimer as a small gesture to say thank-you for being a peace-lover and peace-advocate, and for nurturing all at Victoria Falls PS to grow into conscious citizens. How can the future not look brighter!
Each of the students took a moment to hold the peace torch.
Each finding their own way of expressing peace.
We heard many other words for peace in different languages.
And saw many expressions of peace.
Each one received a Peace Balloon.
After all the excitement and fun of blowing up the balloons the learners all proudly sang their beautiful school song to us, "...we shall stand as one for what we know is right...joy and sorrow will always touch our lives, forever, steadfast we shall stand." Such mighty words and sung with equal might. One of the teachers remarked that whilst life in Zimbabwe has not been easy, that Zimbabweans are strong. Thank-you for keeping the hope and your hearts alive.
Everyone wanted to run with the Peace Torch.
And this time we got to run two laps around the school grounds making sure that everyone had a chance to stretch their legs and enjoy the beautiful morning together.
Mr Viljoen, principal of Victoria Falls PS arrived in time to hold the Peace Torch before we made our way to our next school of the day. Wanting to share his love of nature and the beauty of Victoria Falls with the older learners at school, he told us that from time to time they hike down the ravine to Rapid 19 and free camp under the stars for a night. We think our team might've turned a twinge of green with envy upon hearing this. Take us too!
Our second school of the morning was located in a small village located on the outskirts of town, approximately 15km south of Victoria Falls.
It took us several twists and turns on some of the local roads but the Peace Team soon found Lesedi Primary School. It is a community pre and primary school that was founded by Ngoko Safaris and is now funded entirely by donations. Children in the village wouldn't have otherwise had the means or support to go to school, and in an effort to give back to the community, Lesedi Primary School was opened in 2014. With the donations they receive, children in the school are also able to receive two meals a day.
Here our team and all the learners gather together to meet in the centre of the school grounds.
Surrounded by lovely tall trees and fresh new leaves adorning the branches we could be partially shaded from the warm mid-morning African sun.
Our new Peace runners, Amelia and Shailajah (to the left of Penny) and Takudzwa to the right ready themselves to give some hard clues of where they are from.
It was fun to see the students guessing the country and learning new things about their beautiful country.
With a little help from the Australian teachers they easily guessed Stacey's country.
They even guessed that we now had identical twins on the team. Bonus points if they could tell the difference. We'll share a small secret, we don't think even if we can!
Everyone loved guessing their country, which as you can see was filled with lots of anticipation and lots of energy!
Everyone crowded around the boys as they started fighting over the Peace Torch...a not very peaceful action, which all the learners let them know about!
Finding a moment of silence and peace.
And demonstrating to each of us how easily it can be found, when we look within.
Learning the Peace Run motto.
Prisca held the Peace Torch while the learners sang a beautiful song 'Peace is in my heart."
The teachers all took a moment to hold the Peace torch.
While Amelia had her hands full when she asked if any of the learners wanted a bookmark.
It seemed they all wanted one!
Here we have two Australian 3rd year student teachers holding the Peace Torch. It is their last week at Lesedi Primary School before returning home. They loved their two weeks of teaching here but something they weren't full prepared for they said, is that it has also been emotionally draining as so many of the children who attend school here face so many struggles and challenges in their day to day life. This is a comment that we've heard from many teachers we've met along our travels through our time in Africa. To all teachers, we salute your strength and courage to nurture and embrace our youth. It makes us feel all the more reason to spread the message and importance of peace in our homes and community and country to fulfill our dream of a one-world family.
We bid a fond farewell to the schools of Zimbabwe as our team journey across the Zambezi River border crossing into Zambia and on to Livingstone.
However, we still had some time to take in the beautiful Victoria Falls. The mighty Zambezi was not flowing quite as mightily as usual on this particular occasion, following a severe drought and with our visit taking place right at the end of the dry season. Nevertheless, the Falls were just as beautiful as ever.
We were very happy to discover the plaque dedicating the Victoria Falls as an International Peace Park under the Sri Chinmoy Peace Blossoms programme. The site was dedicated to peace in 1996 when Sri Chinmoy, the founder of the Peace Run, visited Zimbabwe.
The words of the plaque are just as insipiring and relevant today as they were 23 years ago when the dedication ceremony was held.
Despite the drought, the rain forest downstream of the falls is still in tact and thriving with lush, tropical vegetation...
... and we are treated to many beautiful rainbows.
On our drive in to the town of Victoria Falls, we were privileged to come across this family of spotted hyenas on the Victoria Falls - Kazangula Road, including ...
... this delightful young hyena which hid in a pipe culvert as soon as we approached.
And on our departure from Victoria Falls, driving back to the Kazangula Border Post at the Botswana border, we were equally privileged to find ourselves surrounded by an apparently friendly herd of elephants.
Including this very young baby elephant, which took much delight in spinning around in a circle.
And one of the final wild animals to greet us this long journey around Southern Africa was this lone elephant in Botswana.
We think he longs for peace in Africa and the whole world as much as we do.