The Memory Project.
The Memory Project is a charitable non-profit organisation that encourages teachers and students to help create, and donate, portraits of children around the world who are facing challenges such as neglect, abuse, loss of parents, violence, and extreme poverty. The aim of the project is to help these children feel valued and important, or sometimes even just to put smiles on their faces.
This year at CIS, we have had an amazing opportunity to work with the organisation on a project involving needy children in Colombia. Upon receiving photographs of 25 three year old Colombian children, a group of 18 CIS students worked tirelessly to produce stunning portraits which truly capture the beauty of each child. Created using watercolour, acrylic, oil paints and even digital illustrations, each portrait reflects a range of unique styles which allowed students to put their own stamp on their individual projects. As each student worked on portraits of one or two children across a period of two months, a caring bond and connection began to form between the artist and their subject. It was an incredible thing to witness, considering our students had never met these children. The project portrays perfectly the power art has in developing empathy, and in uniting us and bringing the world together.
The Memory Project has allowed us to help children on the other side of the world. It has also illustrated the importance of hard work, and how a little bit of initiative and determination can go a long way - literally.
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 Colombian students, it was clear that we achieved the purpose of bringing happiness to the Colombian 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.
The portraits upon completion, with a $375 donation, were sent back to the children in Columbia and the Memory Project Foundation. Our actions have supported the foundation in its cause, allowing them to continue their philanthropic work, expanding their initiative to reach children from across the globe.
We hope that the project continues for many years at CIS, as we set our sights on the goal of making as many children as we can feel valued and important.