Students Create Portraits For Venezuelan Children

Students Create Portraits For Venezuelan Children
By: Yasmeen Shelkah, Patch

Local high school students are working with a nonprofit organization to create portraits of youth facing hardships.

Students in a Studio Art course at Oak Forest High School are working with The Memory Project to create portraits of children in Venezuela.

According to its website, The Memory Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting intercultural understanding and kindness between children around the world through school-based art programs. The nonprofit said it has worked with 280,000 youth involved in 55 countries since 2004.

The Oak Forest students are creating portraits for youth around the world who have faced substantial challenges, such as neglect, abuse, loss of parents and extreme poverty. The portrait will be mailed directly to a child. The organization said this project is meant to show the children that many people care about their wellbeing, and provide them with a special childhood memory for the future.

Art teacher at Oak Forest High School, Dan Chambers, said he has gotten involved in the project in the past, and that his students were enthusiastic to get involved this year.

"My students created 11 portraits of children in Venezuela in what ever art medium they chose to do it in," Chambers said. "After they completed them on a deadline of Oct. 31, we the students dropped them off at the high school, and we sent the portraits out."

Chambers said getting involved in the project has been a learning experience for he and his students.

"Besides the curriculum, I use this as a life learning lesson. When we heard about children in Venezuela, I did research with the kids about the country's economics and challenges, so we can learn why there are refugees," Chambers said.

Chambers said the organization reached out asking for students to get involved, as many recent participants were unable to do so due to pandemic restrictions. The art teacher said as long as his students are will to do so, he will continue to get his classes involved in the future.

"It was a social history lesson, and this is great for the students because it puts an actual face on the lesson. My students now have an understanding of how much the kids appreciate the portraits," Chambers said. "They are going to look back and say 'hey, you know what? I can do something and make a positive influence in another county.'"

Students involved in the project were also interested in learning more, all while being happy to use their art work to make an impact.

"I chose to produce my piece because, simply, I would love to be the cause of a smile, a laugh, anything that could brighten the kids' day. I think these pieces are a gesture that will mean a lot to them, to know that there are people in the world who care about you," student Caroline Scurek said.

The student continued on saying she was happy to get involved in what she believes to be a heartwarming act that makes a person step out of their comfort zone.

"This project helped me to realize that artists all around should always look to broaden their horizons when tackling new ideas or when trying something new," Scurek said. "They should not feel tied down, rather, take the lead in new projects and taking risks."

Learn more about The Memory Project's portrait program on its website.