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State, The (Columbia, SC)
|November 10, 2002
Column:CLAUDIA SMITH BRINSON
HE'S MADE A CAREER OUT OF MAKING A DIFFERENCE
CLAUDIA SMITH BRINSON, Staff Writer
speaks Sinhalese, Japanese, Thai, French and Tamil. At 31, he has spent
his adulthood elsewhere: Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Japan and Benin.On the other hand, McCravy is actually Samuel Tucker McCravy
IV, a native of Columbia, a graduate of Cardinal Newman High School. He
is the great-grandson of Charles O. Hearon, a crusading editor of
Spartanburg's The Herald; the great-great grandson of "Pitchfork" Ben
Tillman; and the great-great-great grandson of Andrew Pickens, the last
two both governors of South Carolina in the 1800s.
|You have to wonder: How did he get there from here?The short answer would be the Peace Corps.A longer answer involves serendipity, a child named Imelda, a nonprofit named Serendib and McCravy's hope you'll help finance English-immersion camps in Sri Lanka and Thailand or girls' education in Benin.THE TURNING POINTDuring his junior year at Cardinal Newman High School, McCravy traveled to Switzerland through an international exchange program, Youth for Understanding."That placed the travel bug in me," he says.Upon
graduation, he was one of two in his class to leave the state for
college. He chose Wesleyan University in Connecticut. There, he says,
"I learned a liberal philosophy that didn't get bandied about in South
Carolina. That developed a desire in me to put myself in the
social-service stream."His older sister Lucy had seen the yen earlier.
has always been aware of the plight of children in far-flung places,"
she says. "My mother sponsored a child, Imelda, in the Philippines, and
Tucker was fascinated with that, how we could help."
McCravy joined the
Peace Corps. In October 1994, he packed for Sri Lanka, an island
southeast of India called Serendib by Arabians and Ceylon by the
British, known for its tea plantations, a temple with a tooth of Buddha
and a 19-year-old civil war that has cost 65,000 lives.His first year, McCravy
worked in a teacher-training program, helping those who didn't pass the
English exam. Seven languages are spoken in Sri Lanka; English is the
elite's language for government and commerce.In an early letter home, McCravy mentioned walking to water to wash his clothes.
"There were leeches in the bath water," Lucy says. "Cobras were commonplace. I thought, 'I would be home so fast.' "
His second year, McCravy
taught at St. Joachim Tamil Vidyalya, a secondary school on a rural tea
estate. Schools are segregated, and this one was for the minority
population of Tamils.
McCravy taught in a long, open building holding five classes."The
big challenge was keeping order," he says. "You'd be the only teacher,
so there were always four classes with nothing to do. It was a very
worried about the "dissonance," age and learning expectations unmet by
students still mastering the alphabet. The Peace Corps teachers felt
this was a "charade of keeping up appearances. We were of a mind we
should go with what the child knows and move on from there. It was a
daily challenge and headache."
McCravy signed up for another year and found himself consulting with the Sabaragamuwa Provincial Department of Education."That was a turning point and the beginning of Serendib," he says.MAKING CHANGESHe
now had a chance to shape policy on English education. What evolved in
1996 was an English education camp for students 11 to 15, still in
existence through the support of Serendib and the Sri Lankan government.Each
year, 300 children and 50 teachers attend a five-day camp, the
Sabaragamuwa English Language Improvement Camp, or weekend camps at
local schools.Lest you think this was easy: At the first camp's end, McCravy
and his visiting mother were held hostage until all the bills were
paid. Lest you think it was only a camp: In such countries, fluency in
English is the way up and out. Lest you think it's always dire and
serious: McCravy and fellow Peace Corps volunteers also
introduced Frisbee and Frisbee tournaments in which boys and girls
played together, two firsts for Sri Lanka.Always, the goal is to help people help themselves, McCravy says. The camp continues because the teachers continue."We dropped into some reservoir of human potential or energy," McCravy says. "If you can get into that, you have a perpetual-motion machine."In 1998, McCravy
left the Peace Corps. He taught in India and Japan, and then took a
post in Thailand at a four-year government school similar to our
technical colleges. In 2001, Thailand held its first English-language
camp, financed by Serendib and Rajabhat Institute Phranakhon Si
McCravy moved on to
Benin. He joined Teachers for Africa, a program of the International
Foundation for Education and Self-Help, aimed at improving education in
Africa. He traveled throughout the West African country providing
resources, teaching and teacher training.He
and an African colleague would visit two to three rural schools a day,
initiating arts-and-crafts activities, storytelling, reading and
sports. But, he says, "the content was almost immaterial. What was
important was the teaching approach that teachers could benefit from.
In all cases what we met was a willingness to learn and a need so great
we were addressing the tip of the iceberg."BACK HOMEFamily illness brought him home in March. So he went to work here on Serendib, now incorporated and a nonprofit.Virginia Bedford, vice president of Serendib, has known McCravy since he was 4. She offers credit to his parents, Tucker and Lucy Thach McCravy."They
brought him up to care and be creative and explore intellectually,"
says Bedford, also a member of the World Affairs Council and president
of the 3 Rivers Festival.
who runs an animal-rescue nonprofit, agrees. She says, "It is a genetic
blessing from our parents, who encouraged us to do what we believe in
and believe in what we're doing."
The senior McCravy
demurs: "I can't say I saw that vast independence or wanderlust,"
although "I tried to make him intelligent while my wife gave him
humanitarian impulses."He says that on a visit to Sri Lanka, "Tucker
took me to this house in the jungle, no electricity, no running water.
He had a room with a cot all fixed up for me, and I said, 'Where are
you going to sleep?'"He
went to the concrete front porch and put down a beach mat and lay down
and put his hands on his chest and closed his eyes. Anybody who can do
that has got the world by the tail."The
proud father also notes that a doctor lecturing recently on his service
in Tanzania said the best gift to emerging countries is education for
women:"And that's exactly what Tucker is doing."
McCravy is raising
money for his English camps and for scholarships for Benin schoolgirls.
In Benin, $30 pays for a year's tuition, books and a khaki uniform. In
Sri Lanka, $3,000 pays for the annual English camps, covering room,
board, materials and a per diem for the volunteer teachers.Norma Jackson, director of international programs at Benedict College, hopes the Benin effort touches a chord."It's
extremely important that such a program take off because when you
educate a man, you educate a man, but when you educate a woman you
educate a whole village."Education is necessary for development in Africa."
McCravy notes that a little buys a lot:"We
could never do as much here because of economies of scale. A thousand
dollars in South Carolina wouldn't go far. In Africa, you make a
difference."And he believes he knows how."People are indoctrinated to believe more is more," says McCravy.
"You don't need $10 million to make a difference. And it's more
responsible, efficacious, meaningful and productive to take smaller,
judicious, discreet sums of money and apply them in places where
they're most needed."
McCravy has relied
on his own money and that of family and friends for Serendib. Here, he
lives with his parents, operates from his father's office, doesn't "do
anything but work on Serendib." He dreams of funds for a salary for
himself and a grants writer so Serendib can grow."I believe in him and his very sincere desire to do good," Bedford says.Serendib's focus will stay international, making it one of about two dozen such nonprofits in the state.Says McCravy:
"I make no distinctions, place no value judgment on the needs of
children in South Carolina or Sri Lanka. As brothers and sisters in a
global sense, we are obligated to help."IF YOU GO* What: Benefit for Serendib, a nonprofit that educates children in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Beninn When: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday* Where: 2926 Clark St. in Columbia, off River Drive* Guest of honor: Olga Mama-Yari Ogoussan of Benin*
Donations: $25 sends a child to English-language camp; $75 sponsors an
orphan for a year; $150 pays for a university student's semester.*
New donors: In Benin, 75 percent of young women 15 to 24 years old are
illiterate. Donors of $100 to the girls' scholarship program will
receive a poster, donors of $250 will receive a signed, limited-edition
print by artist Tom Feelings.*
For more information: Write Serendib at P.O. Box 11081, Columbia, SC
29211, or e-mail at www.serendib.us, or call (803) 237-4411, weekdays,
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Illustration:PHOTOS: COLOR AND BW
1. Now at home, Tucker McCravy is raising funds for Serendib. MEGAN MORR/THE STATE2. Tucker McCravy teaches in Benin. SPECIAL TO THE STATE
Copyright (c) 2002 The State