CIS Secondary Visual Arts students participated in the Memory Project to make a small change in the lives of less fortunate kids in Columbia. The Memory Project is a global initiative that invites art teachers and their students to create portraits of children that face neglect, abuse, loss of parents, violence, or extreme poverty, to create some happiness.

We recently met with Lily Howarth, the student manager of the Memory Project to talk about CIS’ involvement in the project.

- How did you get involved in the Memory Project?

The Memory Project was a SMART activity that the school was offering and they were looking for a student manager. I decided to sign up for several reasons: First, I was interested in the project initiative. Second, I wanted to try something new and manage a project for the first time. Upon signing up, I got into contact with the Memory Project team from the US and discuss the startup and initial plans for CIS’ involvement. Next, we spread the word across the school and got quite a few interested students signed up.

- Can you tell us about the Memory Project in detail? (How does it work, logistics, etc?)

The Memory Project is a US based non-profit organisation that connects less privileged children with schools around the world through art. The first key part of the project was to create a connection between CIS and an underprivileged school. We were connected to a school in a remote village in Colombia, and shortly afterwards we received 25 photos of their 4-year-old students. The project’s aim is to reproduce these portraits through student drawing or painting. The CIS Memory Project team met every Wednesday during SMART periods, and it was during this time that the students designed, created and finalised their portraits. Each student picked a photo first, then produced a rough draft of the portrait before continuing on to the final piece. Once all the portraits had been completed, we mailed them to the Memory Project’s head office in Chicago. From there, our portraits were shipped (along with portraits from other participating schools) to the Colombian primary school. The Memory Project planned a special method for delivery of the portraits: volunteers from a local university dressed up as superheroes to hand-deliver the portraits to each student, and this gesture made their day!

- What is the purpose of the project?

The main focus of the project is to bring happiness to neglected children around the world who struggle in in developing areas, or live in poverty. Although it may not seem like much, bringing a child happiness or even putting a smile on their face is so important. Not only does it make the children happy, it brings happiness to everyone involved. This was true for me, and all CIS teachers and students involved.

- Who from CIS participated?

The project was open to all students from grade 7 up, and we were pleased that the 17 students who signed up came from all grades. Our team showed a great range of artistic skills, experience and creativity.

- How did students select the photo they'd like to draw?

Student volunteers chose the photograph they wanted to draw or paint, after I spread them out on a table. I felt that by allowing the students to choose their subject they would probably feel more connected to the child they were painting, and this could help to let their creativity run free.

- How long did it take to finish the portraits?

We worked on the project for a total of 4-5 sessions over 9 weeks.

- How do you think the project impacted the lives of the Colombian children?

After watching the thank you video from the Columbian students, it was clear that we achieved the purpose of bringing happiness to the Columbian students through the project. This is something that the team and I are really proud of. It seems that we did touch their lives, even from a distance, and made the little ones feel special.

- What did everyone learn from the Memory Project?

Running the Memory Project has taught me a lot, both in terms of gaining skills on a professional and personal level. It taught me how to organise a group of people and get specific tasks completed on time. Most importantly, I learnt that hard work pays off. We worked over months on the portraits, designing them, creating them, and refining them in our meeting each Wednesday. When we saw the outcome, all the efforts were worthwhile.

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