Posted on 08/31/2018 at 10:39 AM by Blog Experts
Ben Schumacker, founder of the Memory Project, was one of the presenters at the Art of Ed Summer 2018 Conference. The Memory Project creates positive memories and promotes kindness and peace through portraits. The project honors the identify of other children around the world who are living in challenging circumstances: refugee camps, orphanages, homeless shelters, in poverty, etc. It is an international service-learning program. To date, the Memory Project has provided more than 130,000 portraits to children in 45 different countries.
Schumacker started the Memory Project in 2003 when he visited an orphanage in Guatemala as a volunteer. He took pictures of the children in the orphanage. A man suggested he send copies of the photos back to the children, as he grew up in an orphanage, and doesn’t have any photographs of himself. Schumacker decided to take this a step further. He contacted other organizations around the world that helped kids who were facing challenges. They sent him photographs of the kids. His purpose was three-fold:
- Provide the portrait as a special keepsake of their childhood
- Provide the educational, emotional, social experience for the art student of coming face-to-face with another child in the world, and to touch that child in a positive way; cultivating that feeling of compassion
- Using portraiture for peace. Trying to do this in cultures that are not necessarily at peace with us. These students love getting these portraits. The students who paint the portrait puts a photograph of themselves on the back of the painted portrait.
Art teachers contact Ben, and then distribute the photos to the students. The completed painted portraits are sent back to Ben, who sends them to the children around the world. The school then gets a personal video of these portraits distributed to the students.
The Memory Project is a nonprofit organization. The largest expense is distributing the completed portraits back to the students. It costs about $15/student who paints the portrait. But, if the student painting doesn’t have the $15, just tell them and explain that the student doesn’t have the money, and they don’t want the cost to prevent students from participating. Schumacker suggested participating schools invite the newspaper and tv news to come and see the completed portraits prior to sending them back to Schumacker.
If your students decide to participate in this project, please let us know. We’d also like to include photographs and the story on our social media pages.