"This was not only an art project...It was an act of friendship..."
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Eileen Racioppi’s Visual Art IV students painted portraits for children in Pakistan this past winter. The ten Montville Township High School seniors were among more than 3,000 student artists across the United States of America who participated in The Memory Project’s Pakistan 2020 outreach.
“Creating a kinder world through art” is the motto of The Memory Project. According to The Memory Project website, the organization strives to break cultural barriers, provide children with a unique childhood memory, inspire creativity, and show children living in difficult situations that they are valued. The Memory Project was founded to cultivate a kinder world.
Racioppi’s students each received a photo of a child living in Pakistan. When the art students received the photo, they were then asked to paint a portrait of the child in the picture. Recently the MTHS students received a thank you video from The Memory Project. (view video here)
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This is the fifth year Racioppi’s students have participated.
“Every child who receives a portrait has a different story” Racioppi said of the children whose portraits were assigned to her students. “Some live in refugee camps, others have lost their families, and others live in severe poverty. One thing all children in the program have in common is that they are either facing or overcoming difficult challenges, and they inspire us with their courage and resilience.”
“Over the past five years, we have created portraits for children in Bolivia, Syria, Haiti, the United States and, this year, Pakistan,” Racioppi noted as she explained her student’s ongoing commitment for The Memory Project and its mission.
The 2020 MTHS student artists who provided portraits for children in Pakistan are: Bessma Abuoliem, Frederick Blake, Cristin Navarrete Carpizo, Erin Macanga, John Mergl, Alyssa Payne, Isabell Reed, Hanzla Saeed, Dominique Sawieljew and Cindy Xie.
Since Racioppi incorporated this initiative into her classroom five years ago, MTHS students have looked forward to participating in The Memory Project. The students are motivated to create the best possible portrait to give as a gift to the child who will receive it. Students are particularly moved by the video thank you that The Memory Project sends each year.
The Memory Project’s video 2020 featured the joy, love and gratitude the children in Pakistan felt when they received their portraits.
“I’m so pleased to let you know that the portraits you created were delivered to the children in Pakistan, and they absolutely loved them!” wrote Ryan Egan in an e-mail to Racioppi. Egan is Portrait Program Coordinator for The Memory Project.
“The children were so excited to receive your artwork and very touched by your efforts. They fully understood that creating the portraits was a way to show them how much you care about their well-being and their future.”
Founded in 2004 by social worker Ben Schumaker of Wisconsin, The Memory Project’s mission is to promote intercultural awareness, create unique childhood memories and show children around the world that they are valued.
“My students look forward to this project and embrace it with care and kindness,” explained Racioppi. “They want to make sure their child gets the best portrait! After completing the portraits, my students then attach a picture of themselves on the back, along with a traced outline of their hand, as a way of symbolically ‘touching hands’ with the child. Inside their hand they write their name and age along with these words: ‘I was happy to make this for you, I hope you enjoy it.’”
Montville Township Public Schools district was named a National District of Character in 2018 by Character.org. The Memory Project and the on-going participation of Eileen Racioppi’s Visual Art IV students is one example of the many ways Montville Township Public Schools dedicates time and enthusiasm to help others in a meaningful and impactful way.
The Memory Project places a special emphasis on creating portraits for children in countries that have tension with the United States as a gesture of peace and friendship.
Creating portraits for the children of The Memory Project is an artistic way for Montville Township Public School students to show support for children in other places who are living in very difficult conditions. The portraits that are painted and shared both honor the strength of the children who receive the portraits, and provide those children with a valued memory that instill value in themselves.
“My students get very emotional and are even brought to tears,” Racioppi said when describing the impact The Memory Project has on her students. “We are practicing kindness and mindfulness through ART in my classroom every day, this just brings it to a different level.”
Bessma Abuoliem - Montville Township High School senior Bessma Abuoliem painted this portrait for a child in Pakistan. The gift was arranged through The Memory Project to break cultural barriers and show children living in difficult situations that they are valued.
Frederick Blake - Frederick Blake, a senior at Montville Township High School painted this portrait for a child in Pakistan. The Memory Project arranges gifts of portraits to share kindness and build self-esteem for children around the world.
Cindy Xie - Montville Township High School senior Cindy Xie painted this portrait for The Memory Project. The organization asks high school artists to help build cultural understanding and provide empowering memories for children living in challenging circumstances.
Cristin Navarrete Carpizo - Cristin Navarrete Carpizo, a senior at Montville Township High School painted this portrait in the MTHS Visual Art IV class. The portrait was given to the child in the portrait by The Memory Project to help create a kinder world through art.
John Mergl - Montville Township High School senior John Mergl painted this portrait for a child in Pakistan. The Visual Art IV project supports The Memory Project, an organization that provides children in need with inspiring and empowering memories through art.