In a few weeks, visitors bearing packages will greet impoverished children in Ethiopia. When the children tear into the packages, they will find a portrait of themselves staring back at them.
20 students in Star Langlitz’s Advanced Drawing and Painting class at Valley Central High School spent weeks meticulously creating portraits of these children as part of a program called “The Memory Project.” The organization connects art students with children around the world who have experienced trauma, whether through neglect, abuse or extreme poverty. The organization sends participating schools photographs of the children, and the art students work to create a portrait of that child. The portrait is then sent to the child as a keepsake.
“These kids don’t have much,” junior VCHS student Nicole O’Connor, who participated in the program, said. “It’s an opportunity to give them some good memories.”
According to organization’s website, “[The Memory Project wants] the portraits to help the children feel valued and important, to know that many people care about their well-being, and to act as meaningful pieces of personal history in the future. For the art students, we want this to be an opportunity to creatively practice kindness and global awareness.”
“It was a lot of fun,” VCHS junior Makayla Estwick said of The Memory Project. “I like to draw people and faces so it was a great chance to practice for such a good cause.”
Students at Valley Central have participated in the Memory Project for the past eight years. Children in Burma, Peru, Ethiopia and Thailand have received portraits from Valley Central during that time. When the children receive their portraits, volunteers from the Memory Project record it and send the video to the students.
“There is never a dry eye in the room when you see the joy it brings the kids,” Ms. Langlitz, who has participated in the Memory Project with her students for the past four years, said.
“I can’t wait to see my kid’s face when he sees the portrait,” senior Angela Volk said. “I want to be an art teacher, and I really hope this project keeps going. When I’m a teacher, I hope my students can participate in it.