This weekend brings together fitness and philanthropy at the Annual Run for Zimbabwe Orphans and Fair, set for Sunday Mar. 23, from noon to 4 p.m. at St. Joseph school. The run, now in its 15th year, is a charity event put on by the Mountain View-based Sustainable Living Foundation to directly benefit the Makumbi Children's Home in Zimbabwe.
Promoted by the foundation as "cross-country with a cause," the run will feature competitive races for runners of ages, ranging from a 220-yard race for preschoolers to a mile-long race for adults.
"It doesn't matter if you're an elite runner, or a novice runner, or somewhere in the middle," said foundation president Ellen Clark. "Everybody gets a time and a place. Everybody gets a ribbon, the top three get trophies, and there are posted results."
Around 350 runners are expected to participate in this year's run, according to Clark.
The races will be surrounded by a lively African-inspired fair, which will include performances from Zimbabwean musical groups, a display of local children's African-style artwork, and an array of "cultural booths."
"These are to show off the culture of Zimbabwe," Clark said of the cultural booths. The booths will offer games and activities to teach children and adults alike about the geography, culture, and art of Zimbabwe, she said.
All funds raised go directly to the orphanage and are used to underwrite a specific capital project each year, according to Clark.
Past years' projects have provided a roof for the orphanage, plumbing and livestock. This year's goal is to build a cottage for girls in Makumbi Children's Home who have "aged-out" of the orphanage.
"These are girls who are in the orphanage from infancy to age 18, and unfortunately, they have to leave," said Clark. "We are building a little cottage for eight of them, and the orphanage will attempt to help find employment for them."
Unemployment rates are currently over 90 percent in the poverty-ridden country, making additional support and resources for Makumbi orphans attempting to build lives for themselves especially important, said Clark.
To make this year's project a reality, the foundation hopes to match or raise last year's donation of $34,000, she said.
The event is designed to be low-cost: participating runners pay $5, and the fair is free. The majority of the money raised is collected through donations, she said. For those who cannot make a monetary contribution, there is also a shoe drive for the orphanage.
According to Clark, this design allows children and families of all income-levels to participate.
"Our thought is, we need to be especially welcoming to low-income kids here in the Bay Area. Why have an event for poor children in Africa, if we are not equally welcoming to kids of all economic levels here?" Clark said.
This notion is reflected in the Sustainable Living Foundation's "dual mission" for its Zimbabwe project, which is to benefit orphans in Africa while inspiring all kids here in the Bay Area to "be fit, create art, and help others."
"The temptation is to think of it as a successful event only if you raise 'X' amount of money," Clark said. "I think if people can come to this event and learn to create art, be fit, and help others, it's already a success."
St. Joseph school is located at 1120 Miramonte Ave., Mountain View. Race registration and information on the Zimbabwe run and the Sustainable Living Foundation is at zimbabweparaguay.net or by contacting Ellen Clark by email at email@example.com.