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Zimbabwe Run commemorates 20th anniversary

The Run for Zimbabwe Orphans and Fair celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, with festivities scheduled noon to 4 p.m. April 7 at St. Joseph School, 1120 Miramonte Ave., Mountain View.

Los Altos resident Ellen Clark founded the fundraiser, inspired to help after her family visited Africa to visit her son, Will, who was teaching children of the Shona tribe in a remote village nearly two decades ago.

The Run’s motto is “Be Fit! Create Art! Help Others!” The event includes an art contest that is free to enter, but there is a nominal fee for the Run.

“If the family cannot pay, the kid runs free,” Clark said. “We want to include people of all income levels. That is our purpose.”

Gray Mavhera is a runner who grew up in Zimbabwe and represented his country in international competitions. Currently residing in Southern California, he tries to attend the annual run with his wife, Mwadeyi, and their children. Clark said Mavhera has been a “valuable source” of ideas, and helps out at the event whenever possible.

Each year, a different animal native to Africa is selected as a mascot to reflect the richness and diversity of Zimbabwe’s fauna. This year, the beast of choice is the warthog. Father Admire Nhika, director of Makumbi Children’s Home – the orphanage the Run supports – compares them to his orphanage family. Warthogs can survive long periods of drought, he said, and similarly, their residents can survive hardship and still strive to do their best. Also, according to Nhika, warthogs have a hidden talent in that they can run much faster than expected. Likewise, he added, some of his orphanage graduates have achieved success in starting their own businesses or earning degrees from universities in Africa.

Clark said her philosophy is that “we have a two-way philanthropy.”

“My son, Will, came up with this idea,” she said. “We give the funds raised to the orphanage, but Zimbabwe also gives back to us, too, through their music, culture and cuisine.”

The projects supported by the Run for Zimbabwe vary from year to year based on the orphanage’s needs. This year’s proceeds will be used to repair cottages on the grounds and to fund micro grants, enabling students graduating from high school to start small businesses or attend college.

To register for the Run and for more information, visit zimbabweparaguay.net.

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