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Music to their ears

It takes a village to raise a child, and Elmira’s Rachel Clark hopes her hometown community can help her ongoing work to support a Kenyan orphanage when she holds a benefit concert today (Saturday) at Trinity United Church.
The variety show is titled “Until Alone is Over” and will include performances from 50 of Clark’s friends and family, and audiences can expect a show ranging from acoustic duets to solo dance routines. There will also be African jewelry and other items for sale, and all money raised will be sent to Kenya to help ongoing orphanage and community work.

Clark first travelled to Kenya back in 2009, but has returned every year since and made a deep connection with her host family and with the children at the Faraja Children’s Home in Ngong – about 40 minutes outside the capital city of Nairobi.

“Even before I went I had always had a heart to help and I’ve been overwhelmingly blessed,” she said while sitting in her Elmira home.

“I can’t help but have compassion, especially after being there and seeing how they lack the basics. It’s so overwhelming that we can live at such extremes in our world, and it’s not fair.”

After her first trip with the Global Volunteer Network, Clark made the trek in 2010 with two of her friends, and last year she brought a group of nine other Canadians to volunteer at the orphanage and to tour the Kenyan countryside in conjunction with the Waterloo-based Bucket List Travel Adventures.

This year, however, Clark will not be making a return to the country she loves so dearly, for several reasons. The trained dancer and actress has been offered a role in the upcoming stage production of Annie – “I can’t perform forever and once you get your foot in the door at a professional theater you want to keep it there” – but she also hopes the money she saves from not travelling will be put to better use by the Kenyan people.

She is helping her host family build a bigger house so they can accommodate more volunteers from around the world, and she hopes they can convert their existing home into a safe house for street kids or families looking for a fresh start.
This will be Clark’s second benefit concert for her ongoing work in Kenya. The first was in 2008 in preparation for her first trip, and the fact she can now speak personally about the work being done there and show photos of her working with orphans will inspire others to do the same.

“It’s an interesting perspective now, having gone three times,” she said. “They’re going to see pictures of me with the kids and it makes it more tangible.”

Her travels even inspired her cousin, Heather Clark, to write a novel incorporating Rachel’s stories of Kenya. “Chai Tea Sunday” was published earlier this month and Heather will be at the show to read excerpts of the story and to sign copies of the book.

“We went through my journals and pictures and she videotaped me and interviewed me. We kept in touch while I was in Kenya the last two times, and she wrote a book based on some of my experiences there and characters that I’ve come in contact with.

“It’s literally as if she was there. I read the book and thought ‘these are my words’ and it’s still sinking in.”

Never one to sit still for long, Clark has toured the world while working on a cruise ship, and is currently working as a waitress in Waterloo while also teaching Zumba dance classes and working at Reid Woods group home in Elmira – work that she says has helped make her transition from working in Kenya to returning to North America.

She hopes to return to Kenya in the next few years and take her parents with her to show them the work she has done and to teach them about the country she has grown to love so much.

The benefit concert on Apr. 28 will have two show times, 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children and students, or whatever you can. It will be held at Trinity United Church, 21 Arthur St. N. in Elmira and the church is wheelchair accessible and care for young children will also be provided.

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