For the past eight years, Clark has been raising money to support African orphans like those of Zimbabwean activist Gift Tandare, who left three children behind when he was killed during a recent demonstration there.
The fate of Tandare's children now rests in the hands of the orphanages there caring for Zimbabwe's 900,000 orphans. On March 25, Clark will coordinate the 8th Annual Run for Zimbabwe Orphans and Zimbabwean Fair at St. Joseph School in Mountain View, with all of the proceeds going to help one of those orphanages.
Local students will give and receive in a big way, said Clark. "Children say they receive love, art and music when they take part in the run. Monetarily, it's a drop in the bucket. But for all our children who have been touched by the experience, you can't measure the learning."
On the day of the run, the field is abuzz with young athletes competing, mascots cheering them, a Zimbabwean band playing and others browsing through the cultural displays. Besides Mountain View, students at the run come from Los Altos and Watsonville. The running events are conducted separately for kindergarten through eighth grade students, followed by an open run for adults.
Each run, which is timed to last 15-20 minutes, is given a colorful name and dedicated to the project's patrons. For instance, the post-high school run is a Giraffe Mile dedicated to the memory of the late Kate Wakerly, a founder of the Voice and formerly an active contributor to the run.
Students have taken part in Zimbabwe Run since 1999. This year, St. Andrews eighth graders are going a step further by organizing a shoe drive for their Zimbabwean counterparts. The school-wide shoe drive is ongoing from March 13 to 23. There is a morning curbside drop-off at St. Andrews.
Roger Adams, who has taught at St. Andrews for 32 years, said he has encouraged his students to take part since the first run eight years ago.
"It also gives them a chance to compete in a relaxed situation, and it gives them an idea of where they are presently with their fitness levels," he said.
Proceeds are generated from a $5 entry fee, $10 T-shirts and corporate sponsorship. Last year, the event raised $20,500, which the orphanage used to give the teachers a raise, purchase three cows and acquire some much-needed cutlery. Clark, a physical education teacher at St. Francis High School, also persuades friends in the community to support one orphan each for an annual amount of $350.
Clark has made many friends in the course of her philanthropy. One of them is Mountain View resident Girley Tegama, who arrived from Zimbabwe six years ago to work at Stanford University.
"The Zimbabwe Run brings comfort and hope to the future of those orphaned by HIV/AIDS, given that we have thousands of child-headed households," said Tegame, who works with her friend, Zimbabwe native Angela Gora, to raise funds to test provide HIV testing for pregnant women in Zimbabwe. At the March 25 run, Tegame and Gora will set up a booth for their project.
What: The 8th Annual Run for Zimbabwe Orphans and Zimbabwean Fair
Where: St. Joseph School, 1120 Miramonte Ave., Mountain View
When: The event begins at noon on March 25
Info: Call Ellen Clark at (650) 941-9206, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.zimbabweparaguay.org