Chandra Clark is a self-described “late bloomer” who traveled a winding path into a career in nonprofits. Growing up, Chandra faced a lot of adversity and took on much of the responsibility for caring for her three younger siblings. Without a lot of guidance and support from adults in her life, she struggled to understand her own value and worth. It wasn’t until she found herself in graduate school and going through a divorce as a mother of a 5-year old, that she happened upon a mentor who would help her solidify her vision, focus her talents, and start overcoming her trauma.
“It was a nonprofit class that I was taking as an elective, and really he took me under his wing. And what’s important about this story is that he was a white male, which I needed, because he didn’t see life through the lens of disenfranchised, marginalized, or limited. He really helped me shift my perspective to think about what I could bring to the table. And the fact that a lot of the adversity that I was going through was for a higher purpose. So that really opened the door for me to have more mentors. And that’s really what changed my life.”
Pursuing Her Higher Purpose
Ultimately, her personal experiences during childhood helped her develop a desire to lift up other women. As a result, she founded Masterpiece of Divine Eternal Love (MODEL) in 2006. The organization provided workshops and seminars that were focused on building self-esteem for women ages 13-21. While she was full of passion for the project, she still wanted to build her business acumen so that she could be a more effective leader.
This pursuit of rich learning experiences eventually led to her current position as the Executive Director at the VHL Alliance. Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) is a rare genetic disorder that causes tumors to form throughout the body. Her organization is working to provide “research, education, awareness, and advocacy to support those whose lives have been impacted by VHL.” According to Chandra, “everything that we do as an organization, our mission, is really tied to supporting our VHL community. And our vision is to find a cure for cancer through VHL.” The organization has 37 domestic and 19 international clinical care centers and has raised over $2.6 million for VHL research.
Her passion for helping others continues to be fueled by both her family and VHL patients who have really shaped her perspective. “If our patients can decide to get up every day and put one foot in front of the other then I can too. It’s also helped me to understand the importance of positivity because I think any of us that are dealt cards beyond our control, there is immense grief, and you have to go through those seasons of pity. I think you owe it to yourself to go through it but you can’t stay there.”
Advice to Future Changemakers
For other young women who are trying to find their own path, Chandra’s advice is to remember that our career journeys are not linear and it is okay to take a non-traditional path; choose yourself everyday and treat yourself with grace, forgiveness, love, and self-compassion; finally, be authentic and support each other.
“It’s just really important for women to be authentic, to be bold, and to be courageous enough to share their stories, and to also operate from a place of knowing that there’s abundance for all of us, and that they don’t have to be ashamed of what they’ve gone through. There’s a divine timing for everyone. That is where we really have to encourage each other.”