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The Memory Project and Their Impact on Children All Over the World
Written by Anika Kurebayashi | Published. 2021.04.19 14:54 | Count : 488

On a global scale, children, mainly in Less Economically Developed Country (LEDCs), face and are greatly affected by substantial challenges such as religious conflicts, shortage of resources, inadequate health care systems, and recently COVID-19. According to UNICEF, “about 1 billion children are multidimensionally poor, meaning they lack necessities as basic as nutrition or clean water. Some 150 million additional children have been plunged into multidimensional poverty due to COVID-19.” Moreover, children exposed to such problems experience an excessive amount of social deprivation. They are less likely to feel appreciated and loved, which leads to them having lower self-esteem, less self-confidence as well as mental health problems. However, some nonprofit organizations recognize these issues and make an effort to bring joy to these children.

[Children in poverty within Syria. Photo provided by Piqsels]

The Memory Project is an NGO “dedicated to promoting intercultural understanding and kindness between children around the world through school-based art programs.” Founded by Ben Schumaker, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, the organization invites art teachers and students to create special portraits of children suffering from challenges worldwide to show that everyone cares for their happiness. Since 2004, the Memory Project was able to get more than 280,000 art student youth involved and 180,000 portraits delivered to children in 55 countries including Afghanistan, Syria, and the Philippines as of 2019. The Memory Project then creates a video montage of the delivery process along with the capture of the children receiving the artwork, showing their excitement.

[Linocut portrait process of 12-year-old girl. Photo by 김보아 (Anika Kurebayashi)]

This year, Seoul International School produced portraits for and donated money to children facing hardships, specifically in Syria. Within the SIS community, students were given the chance to choose from a list of around 22 names with corresponding codes for the profile photos of the actual children. We were given only the first name, age, and country of the child that we were matched with to keep the identities and locations of children involved in the art programs confidential.

We were assigned to create a single reduction lino-cut print portrait per child in Syria for this Studio Art class unit. To create this certain style of artwork, I had to use photoshop to make a more saturated version of the image highlighting different brightness’s of the facial features. I then made a pencil portrait of our Syrian child, which will act as the guide for better understanding the distinct facial features of the face. It also helped emphasize the contrast of lighting that creates the different shades of colors. By understanding the elements of the original picture, I then traced the image into four different sections depending on the brightness or darkness of the overriding color. I indicated what color it would be in the final print by marking and filling the space with a marker. My teacher provided me with the rice paper to trace and transfer my sketch onto a linoleum sheet, a material made from linseed oil, cork, wood floor. I then carved out the portions that had the lightest color, which was white, using speedball cutters to work in the order of printing to construct a realistic figure. I used an ink roller to transfer the color onto many different textures of paper so that I can choose which final product looks the best. Through this meaningful art project, students learn that they can make the world a better place by simply making a portrait of a child, as it inspires creativity in children facing challenges.

Even though we are currently living through the COVID-19 pandemic, the Memory Project team could still successfully deliver the pieces to the children in Syria. I am very content with my final artwork. However, I felt much more merriment when seeing the joyful faces of the Syrian children through the short montage video provided by the organization. More programs such as the Memory Project should be encouraged as it was a great way to get even more students involved in trying to help children in difficult situations.



Anika Kurebayashi
Grade 9
Seoul International School

Anika Kurebayashi  student_reporter@dherald.com

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