Bethany Salah, Used with Permission
This fall, Ms. Poirier’s Drawing and Painting II classes took part in the Memory Project. This nonprofit organization was founded in 2004 and calls on art students to create portraits for struggling youth. These children may have experienced abuse, extreme poverty, or the loss of their parents. The goal of the project is to show the children that they are valued and that people are thinking of them all across the globe. This year, the children being drawn are from Syrian Refugee Camps.
This is the second year the Abington High Art Department has participated in this project. Ms. Poirier found out about this project from a postcard that was sent to the high school at the beginning of last year. The children painted last year were from Columbia.
One of the most exciting parts of the projects for the students is getting to choose a child to draw and learn their name and favorite color. Poirier says, “they form an instant connection with them.”
Bethany Salah ’18 who participated in the project last year reflected on what she gained from that experience and said that it allowed her to learn a lot about Columbia and the conditions there. Salah said, “it was so inspiring and fulfilling to see the kids smile at our artwork so it was an incredible experience.”
Emily Akers ’18 who took drawing and painting this year said “this project helped put into perspective that these are real children over there. They told us their favorite colors and even though that was so simple and little to us, it really brought out the fact that they are just little kids.”
Ms. Poirier loves every aspect of the project, but says she “especially loves the personalized video they send us when the children receive their artwork. It lists our students’ names and shows the project volunteers going to each school or shelter and handing out the portraits.” This is an important part of the project for Ms. Poirier as it reminds her and the students of the reason they spent so much time on the portraits. To see the smile on the children’s faces makes the project worthwhile. The video also helps put things into perspective, showing something as small as a portrait can have a profound effect on a child’s day or life. The children realize other people keep them in mind during tough times.
This project does more than give portraits to students as a keepsake. The schools and shelters that the students attend and live at are also receiving donations from Abington High School.
Although the Memory Project chooses the country the children are from, one drawing and painting student had mentioned to Ms. Poirier that they should ask that children from Puerto Rico are considered, due to the recent damage done by Hurricane Maria.
The project has opened the students’ eyes to the ways in which they can use their artistic talent to help others, which Ms. Poirier believes is important because “even though our students know there are areas of violence and poverty in the world, they may not consider it from the point of view of an innocent child.”
Abington High School has been able to contribute to the over 100,000 portraits that the organization has distributed across 43 countries in the past 13 years.
For more information on the Memory Project and how to donate check out their website www.memoryproject.org. For more information on AHS Visual Art, check out their website http://ahsvisualart.wixsite.com/artdept.