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Jet artists’ paintings boost morale of Syrian children

MADISON – Impoverished children in Syria — some orphans, some disaster survivors — will receive a boost in morale with paintings by artists at James Clemens High School.

Art teachers Mason Overcash and Liz Vaughn received a postcard from The Memory Project. “We had been trying to find ways to connect our students to a global audience, so this landed in our laps,” Vaughn said.

A charitable nonprofit organization, The Memory Project invites art teachers and their students to create portraits from photographs of youth around the world who have faced substantial challenges, such as violence, disasters, extreme poverty, neglect and loss of parents. Those children receive the portraits, which hopefully spark feelings of self-worth and confidence. (memoryproject.org)

The Memory Project sent photographs of children from Syria for James Clemens artists to paint or sketch. “These kids are about eight to 11 years old,” Vaughn said.

Ben Schumaker, founder of The Memory Project, first worked with disadvantaged children in Guatemala. From that experience, Schumaker identifies children who can benefit from the portraits.

“I wanted to make someone smile,” James Clemens student Riley Norris said. “I wanted them to have something that’s just theirs, look at it and smile. It’s a good feeling to know that something you did brought joy to someone else.”

Hannah Einhorn “wanted to show a child that he or she has worthy; I wanted this child to know that people are rooting for him or her, even if they’re on the other side of the planet.”

Einhorn fulfilled her artistic purpose by using her talent to inspire confidence and security in others. “This project means unity, support, awareness and service. The children receiving their portraits will have a thoughtful memento to cherish, and the artists participating in this project have (shown) love to someone of a different culture and heritage, fostering a sense of empathy and friendliness around the world.”

When Vaughn sees images of the Syrian children, she thinks about her own childhood and the priorities she had. “Living in Syria at this time in history, I imagine that parts of their childhood are going to be missing or tainted,” Vaughn said. “I imagine that their portraits will be a sunny spot in a potentially difficult childhood.”

For more information, visit memoryproject.org.

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