It's been a fruitful decade for Ellen Clark's Sustainable Living Foundation, which puts on the now-famous Zimbabwe Run. But Clark hopes that this year will be a banner one.
As always, the Zimbabwe Run and Fair -- a Mountain View event begun 10 years ago to raise money for orphans in Zimbabwe, where hunger, runaway inflation and a cholera epidemic are taking their toll on the people -- takes place at St. Joseph School, where Clark once taught P.E. The upcoming event is Sunday, April 5.
Clark, the Run's founder and tireless booster, has been dedicated to making a positive change in the African country since visiting in 1997. Her son had volunteered there to improve its education system, and on a trip to visit him and learn more about the country, her ambition to help the children of Zimbabwe was born.
"We went into the villages and the rural areas and saw the poverty," she said. But what made the biggest impression on her were the Zimbabweans themselves: "We fell in love with the people."
She began with just the Zimbabwe Run, but eventually expanded it to Zimbabwe Run and Fair. The "Fair" is designed to educate people, especially children, about Africa and to shine a light on the positive aspects of the culture in a time when most of the news we hear from there is so tragic.
With African animal mascots cheering all along the way, participants run one of 12 different mini-races at St. Joseph. There will be a 100-yard race for disabled children called the Lion Hearted Run, a 220-yard run for preschool-aged children, a half-mile run for kindergarteners, and a series of mile-long races for everyone else from first graders to adults.
After the races the fun really starts. Children will present their African art that they have entered (and still can enter) into the Cultural Exhibition. One St. Joseph student, Annel Garcia, will be performing the African National Anthem a cappella. And with games like Name That African Animal Sound and Carry It on Your Head, children are "invited into philanthropy on their own level," says Clark.
After all the running and balancing baskets on their heads has worked up an appetite, participants will head over to the booth offering sadza, or corn meal mush, and snack on the staple food of Zimbabwe. They might also listen to Sadza, the Zimbabwean band, and hear why the people of Zimbabwe also consider music a staple.
Clack says all money from entry fees, donations and T-shirt sales goes directly to Makumbi Children's Home, where 110 orphans are educated and fed through the home's gardens and livestock.
Meanwhile, Nick MacFalls, a fellow philanthropist from the organization From Our Feet, and Saint Francis High School student Courtney Albini, will be running a shoe drive for the children of Africa in keeping with SLF's mission. In Zimbabwe, children are not allowed to go to school if they don't have shoes, so participants who bring a pair of "gently used" shoes can make a difference.
What: 10th Annual Run for Zimbabwe Orphans and Fair
When: Sunday, April 5 beginning at 1 p.m.
Where: St. Joseph School, 1120 Miramonte Ave., Mountain View
Cost: $5 entry fee; T-shirts are $10