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Marystown Central High’s Art Club helps make memories for Syrian children

Emma Mayo working on her portrait for The Memory Project.
Emma Mayo working on her portrait for The Memory Project. - Submitted

Students participate in The Memory Project

MARYSTOWN, NL — Students in the art club at Marystown Central High School (MCHS) recently had the opportunity to create a memory for children in Syria.

The students joined with others from across Canada to take part in The Memory Project.

Students created portraits using photographs of children that were provided to the class by the project.

The Memory Project is a charitable non-profit organization that invites art teachers and their students to create and donate portraits to youth around the world who have faced substantial challenges, such as violence, disasters, extreme poverty, neglect, and loss of parents.

Since 2004 more than 100,000 portraits have been created for children in 43 countries. 

A picture of the completed portraits taken before they were mailed back to the organization that handles the project. - Submitted
A picture of the completed portraits taken before they were mailed back to the organization that handles the project. - Submitted


The students at MCHS were introduced to the project by Stephanie Power, a visual arts teacher at the school.

Power told The Southern Gazette she learned of the project from a friend who was teaching in Germany.

"This project was new to Newfoundland when I first heard about it,” she explained.

She added she first took part in the project approximately four years ago when she was teaching in Grand Falls-Windsor at Exploits Valley High.

Power explained the project gets its name from the memories created for the children who receive the portraits.

"It's called that because the kids have no memorabilia left, so if they are orphaned they don’t have any pictures of themselves."

Students in the art club were excited about taking part.

"Initially when they heard about the project they didn’t spark as much interest as I would have hoped,” said Power.

She added, however, when the students saw a video about the project, and the reaction of the children who received portraits from a previous year, the students wanted to get involved.

Brianna Walsh, one of the students who took part said she just wanted to help.

“I felt bad that they didn’t have any (mementos),” she explained.

Another student who because of her required course load was unable to take an art class this year said when she learned of the project during a meeting of the art club it seemed interesting.

“I liked how in the video how happy (the kids) were when they got the picture back, and I hoped that my art would do the same thing — I hope that they would be able to have a portrait of themselves,”

She said many students at her school have their school portrait done yearly.

“We don’t think about it, but they don’t get pictures of themselves, so it would be nice if they could have a picture of themselves to keep and look back on.”

Another student said that viewing the video of the kids receiving the pictures and seeing how happy they were made her think of how much she and other kids she knows have.

"And they were so happy to get a drawing that some kids did for them, and I just wanted to make (these kids) as happy as I seen the other kids in the video.”

Once the portraits were completed they were mailed back to The Memory Project. From there they are sent to children in the selected country and schools involved are sent a video of the presentation of portraits.

“I actually cried,” said Emma Mayo, when asked what she thought of seeing the video of the portraits handed out.

Shauna Lambe said it was a very heartwarming video. 

“All the kids looked so happy to get these artworks,” she said.

All who took part in the project said they would be willing to do it again in the future.

The students said that they wanted to do their best to ensure that the features were accurately captured in the portrait.

“I spent about an hour working on the nose just trying to get it right,” said Emma Mayo, “cause if you don’t have a certain facial feature right it doesn’t look like the person you’re trying to draw and the nose is like one of the big things that you need to get right or it won’t look as much like the person you’re trying to draw as it should.”

Mayo said she erased the nose several times before she was happy with it.

For Karen Sharpe the project came with its own set of challenges

"This is actually my first time drawing a face,” she said. "I had no idea how to draw facial features so it was definitely a struggle, but I had lots of friends to help me get through it.”

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