Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Father inspired mission journey

Woman to teach art on St. Vincent

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

HYDE PARK - Marsha McSpadden Clarke thanks her father for more than just her unusual middle name.

Donations to help Marsha Clarke teach art at the Bishop's College in St. Vincent can be dropped off or sent to Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral, 318 E. Fourth St.; Cincinnati, OH, 45202. For more information, call Dean James Diamond at the church at (513) 621-1817.
She credits him with giving her the sense of adventure and urge to travel that has her headed to a poor Caribbean island to teach art.

"He'd tell me stories about his time in the British Army. He gave me that sort of wanderlust," she said. "And after my husband died last Christmas, I just knew I wasn't the sort of woman who would sit around and drink tea all day."

So the 67-year-old retired Cincinnati Public Schools teacher and widow of an Episcopal priest set out to find a way to use her talents for good. She found a way through the church - teaching art at Bishop's College on the island of St. Vincent to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.

"She's going to be providing instruction in a school that would never be able to afford art education otherwise," said Canon Vickie Zust, the canon of ministry for the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio.

The nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a former British colony that includes 32 islands in the Caribbean. Its 115,000 people depend heavily on agriculture, mainly bananas, while trying to develop tourism.

"There is extreme poverty. I saw the sort of homes these kids are living it, and I was humbled," Clarke said. "This gives me such an awesome opportunity to introduce them to the world of art, the sort of thing we take for granted here."

Zust said Clarke's three-month stint on St. Vincent is not being sponsored by the diocese, but the Cincinnati-based diocese has a longstanding relationship with the Windward Islands diocese, of which St. Vincent is a part.

"It speaks very highly of Marsha's commitment to the world beyond her own life that she's doing this," Zust said. "She's really an inspiration."

Clarke, who grew up and was educated in Northern Ireland before coming to Cincinnati more than 30 years ago, visited St. Vincent before committing to the teaching post.

Before leaving for St. Vincent Jan. 8, her father's birthday, Clarke is raising funds throughout the month of November at Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral for supplies for her newest students.

"I think back to my art room at Cincinnati Public, at the stuff we never used. I think, if I had that stuff now, we would be in heaven," she said. "We have so much here we take for granted."

Clarke said the greatest demand is for money to pay for and ship supplies, but she's also collecting posters and reproductions of works of art.

"I'm a little nervous, but excited, too," she said. "It's a privilege to bring so much to kids who have so little. My faith is my motivation."


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