SchoolArts Room

An Invitation from The Memory Project

By Nancy Walkup, posted on Aug 27, 2018

The Memory Project is a charitable nonprofit organization that invites art teachers, art students, and solo artists to help cultivate global kindness by creating portraits for children around the world who have faced substantial challenges, such as violence, war, extreme poverty, neglect, and loss of parents. Participants create these portraits to help children feel valued and important, to know that many people care about their well being, and to provide a special childhood memory in the future. Since 2004 they have created more than 130,000 portraits for children in 47 countries. SchoolArts Magazine has featured The Memory Project many times and would like to share this new invitation and opportunity with you.


The Memory Project typically asks all participating art students (or their schools) to contribute a $15 donation with each portrait.  These contributions cover the costs of coordinating and delivering the portraits to the children around the world.  However, we now have a donor who wants to encourage more art teachers and students to participate.  The donor is offering to contribute $75 for every art teacher who has not yet joined our efforts, allowing new teachers to sign up 5 students for no cost.

1) All art teachers who are not yet part of the Memory Project can now sign up with 5 students and a donor will cover their $75 contribution.  See #3 at

2) In addition, teachers at low-income schools can now determine their own contribution amount for any number of students.  See #2 at

Current Projects

1) Colombia: Feeding centers for 3-5 year old children 

We begin the school year with young children living in urban slums in Colombia.  Most of the children live with a single parent or grandparent and receive meals and other support at neighborhood feeding centers.  These tiny tots are no doubt some of the cutest on Earth, and they will literally jump for joy when they receive the portraits your students create for them.  We have their photos ready to go right now and will bring the finished portraits to them in early December as a special holiday delivery.

2) Puerto Rico: ongoing Hurricane Maria response

In May we delivered portraits to children who were affected by Hurricane Maria, and many more children wanted to participate.  We told them we would find artists to make their portraits too, and we would love your help! We'll have their photos ready very soon, and we plan to deliver their portraits before the holidays in December.

3)Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh:

The Rohingya ethnic minority has been called the "most unwanted" group of people on Earth. Nearly a million fled genocide in Myanmar last year and are currently sheltering in a huge refugee settlement in Bangladesh. Most of these families have little more than a few cooking pans and a handful of clothes. For these children, who have rarely seen photos of themselves, the portraits will be gifts they could never have previously imagined.  Help us show these children they are not "unwanted" in our shared humanity. We will have their photos ready in several weeks and plan to deliver the portraits to them in January.  

4) Philippines: children living in extreme poverty

Last year we partnered with a wonderful organization in the Philippines to create portraits for children living in garbage dumps and other extremely impoverished situations.  They told us we must do it again this year, as they want to reach a thousand more children, and we said "absolutely." We will have their photos ready very soon and plan to deliver the portraits to them in February.

5) Syria: children living as war refugees

Thousands of Syrian children are growing up in refugee camps with no experience of life outside a barbed wire fence.  The portraits your students create for them will therefore carry messages of kindness and hope from an outer world.  Help us show these children that they are not forgotten.  We will have their photos ready soon and plan to deliver the portraits in March.

6) Afghanistan: children facing war and poverty

Few countries on earth have experienced as much turmoil and tragedy as Afghanistan in recent decades, and that trend is continuing with the resurgence of the Taliban.  Quite simply, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these children to see themselves portrayed as works of art.  We will have their photos ready in a month and plan to deliver their portraits in April.

7) USA: children facing poverty and violence 

It is bittersweet to add our dear USA to this list for the very first time.  On the one hand it will be so meaningful to make portraits for children here at home, but it is also heartbreaking that their circumstances have brought them to this list at all.  We will be making portraits for children in some of the most challenged neighborhoods in our country - kids who rarely get enough to eat and face the threat of gun violence every day.  We hope to have their photos ready by October and will deliver the finished portraits in May.

8) Peru: children living in extreme poverty

When asked to imagine Peru many people think of the jungles, mountains, and Machu Picchu.  Far fewer think of the deeply impoverished slums outside of Lima or the children who live there.  By creating portraits for them, your students can imagine just how surprised and touched they will be to receive such special gifts for the very first time.We will have their photos ready in a month and plan to deliver their portraits in June.

9) Pakistan: children living in orphanage homes

We are passionate about breaking barriers and uniting youth from different cultures.  For that reason we are very exited to create portraits for children in Pakistan for the very first time.  As one of our Pakistani partners says, "When many people think of our country they think of terrorism, but it's not like that!  We are a very warm and welcoming people who are eager for friendship and cannot wait to see the special portraits you create for the children in our homes."  We will have their photos ready in a month and plan to deliver their portraits in July.

10) Russia: children facing social problems

It is often said that art is a universal language.  Sharing a language is essential for clear communication, and communication is a foundation of friendship.  When we delivered portraits to Russia last year, many children asked, "What do American people think about us?"  By using art as a language to communicate friendship, we can help to build peace with Russian youth in a way that governments can't. We will have their photos ready by November and plan to deliver their portraits in August.

For more information, please contact Ben Schumaker, Founder, The Memory Project, 2163 N. Gateway St., Middleton, WI 53562 P) 608-467-0974