BY NARMADA HEER
Why did we choose Kenya for our World Harmony Run trip to Africa? After our successful trip in 2006 Tegla Loroupe invited us back to Kenya. Tegla is a world-famous former Marathon-record holder, UNICEF and UN Sport ambassador for Peace and Development, who has worked together with UN secretary general Kofi Annan, Barack Obama and George Clooney. As the first African woman to win a major marathon – NYC Marathon 1994 – Tegla has become a role model for all the women. And she supported the WHR in Europe by coming to many opening ceremonies. She visited Portugal in 2005 and 2006, Rome in 2008, 2009 and 2010 she came to Switzerland and 2011 to Iceland. Also refer to the interview on Youtube.
Zurich, 9th November: I was sitting next to my brother on the KLM connecting flight to Amsterdam, when a nice voice from the loudspeaker: “We have a flat tire.” Hutashan’s face turned pale. For weeks he had worked out a schedule of how people from eight different nations would arrive in Nairobi more or less at the same time, so that we all could get on the same rented bus through Eldoret to Kapenguria where Tegla’s Peace Race is organized for the 10th time.
Nairobi, 10th November: With the help of his friend Vallabha, Hutashan organized a late night flight to Nairobi so we could join our team. One week before we didn’t know who would be able to make it to Kenya. Our team consisted of Vajra, who came all the way from USA; Johannes from Ethiopia, organizer of our car with driver for a good deal; Vishvesha from Croatia, who became our technical director; Shatadhala from Austria, our filmer; Roos from Holland, our daily World Harmony Run reporter; Punita from Germany, an experienced WHR runner and Carole, Red Cross volunteer from France. In total we had 16 suitcases with medical supplies, notebooks, pencils, WHR T-shirts, running shoes, musical instruments, Jharna Kala paintings and poem cards of Sri Chinmoy about peace.
From Nairobi to Kapenguria, after three hours we had our first stop to meet Jimmy Sherlock, an American business men. He looked like coming directly from Hollywood: pink tie, business suit and a big smile. Jimmy received the WHR torchbearer award in 2010. He happily changed his flight back home to the States so that he could participate in the run in Nakuru. And how he was participating! He organized a press conference for the World Harmony Run and more. After that we continued on the bumpy road through the Rift Valley. During the day, we needed about 10 hours for 400 km; in 2006 it took us about 16 hours as there were just dirt roads. In Kapenguria, we were welcomed with a cup of Indian Chai by Tegla Leroupe and Eunice Hasango, the CEO of the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation. Kenya was colonized by the British and therefore also Indians came to Kenya. Our whole team could stay in a 7 room Villa with our own cook, Rebecca. The food was simple but very tasty and nutritious. The bread was Indian style.
11th November – At the Nasokol School: 850 girls and 50 teachers participated in the “Nasokol All Girls School” where we were welcomed by the Principal Mrs. Tomeyan Rosalyne, Head of Education and Games Teacher. This was the school Tegla had attended in the 80ies. The teacher told us: “We were praying to God that the World Harmony Run would come to visit our school.” Therefore all the 850 girls were waiting with expectation for our arrival. We were absolutely stunned by the amazing 2-hour program of all singing the World Harmony Run song with such pure and clear voices. There were dances and more singing dedicated to peace. One girl had tears, after she had recited a text with a message of UNESCO President Davidson Hepburn to the World Harmony Run and Sri Chinmoy, the founder of the run. On the schools sports ground all 850 girls formed a huge circle and while coordinator Hutashan and the teachers gave TV interviews we passed all around the World Harmony torch, followed by giving out notebooks and pencils as gifts. Finally 50 girls accompanied us to the Tegla Loroupe Peace Meeting in Kapenguria.
12th November: Tegla Loroupe Peace Race in Kapenguria: This year it was the 10th edition of the Peace Race that started in 2003 by Tegla to bring together warriors of the rival tribes Pokot, Turkana, Samburu, Markwet and Karamajong to reduce conflict in the region. Kapenguria is the place where Tegla was born. As a girl she had to fight very hard to make it to school and also to become an international runner. She belonged to the wrong tribe, so for a long time she wasn’t allowed to participate internationally. It was until NYC Marathon founder Fred Lebow invited her to the 1994 edition of the World’s most famous Marathon when the star Tegla Loroupe started shining. She had won her 1st Marathon ever in 1994 and then again in 1995. She won in London and set World records in Rotterdam and in Berlin. Even with all this success she didn’t forgot where she came from and she always wanted to give something back to her community. There were 10 km races for elite runners and local warriors, ands also a race for children as well as a VIP race for politicians and dignitaries. The annual Peace Race in Kapenguria has now a ten years old tradition of bringing together all the different tribes for discussions on how to find peaceful solutions instead of fighting. 20 warriors that put down their weapons between ages 16 and 20 are now living and doing their training together. Besides the World Harmony Run, other people and organizations were visiting the race: Peace and Sports from Monaco, the former Swedish Ambassador Bo Goranson, Ugandas Resident District Commissioner Moroto Nahaman Ojwe and a delegation from Germany. After the start of the cultural event, a girl’s school class was performing a poem about Tegla, a boy was singing a Tegla rap and the named five different tribes were performing their traditional singing and dancing. This went on until the next morning… and later we were invited to Tegla’s house for lunch. Together with the other VIP guests we appreciated the good food as well as the many trophies Tegla had won all over the world. At her altar there were pictures showing Tegla with President Barack Obama, Georg Clooney and Kenyan President Kibaki.
14th November: Third stop was Nakuru: With about 300.000 inhabitants, Nakuru is the 4th biggest city in Kenya and has a very important train station that connects the capital Nairobi with Eldoret – the Mekka of running – and goes on to Uganda. So it was an honor that this city invited 1000 students of the Nakuru University to run the last leg of the Kenyan World Harmony Run from there. The three kilometers route took us over Kenyatta Avenue, the very busy main road to the Afraha High School. As in the Nasokol School and at Tegla’s Peace Race again the national TV was present. And also like on November 11th, the “Standard News” announced our coming to Nakuru, thanks to Jimmy Sherlock, President of Reborn International Ministries. He said that he and his friend George, CEO of Reborn Kenya, wanted to unite the people of Nakuru through the World Harmony Run. The two million people of the Nakuru region have a society with much diversity in social and cultural structures. At the University we were finally welcomed by Amos N. Gathecha, M.B.S, Regional Commissioner of the Central Rift Valley. On behalf of the World Harmony Run and in presence of 1000 students, Hutashan gave out 3 Torch-Bearer-Awards to Boniface Muhia, Chairman of the Nakuru Business Association; Prof. J. K. Tuitoek, Vice Chancellor of Egerton University and Prof A.K. Kahi and Dean of Egerton University School of Agriculture for consistently demonstrating character traits of friendship, teamwork, respect and honesty.