April Ryan, Grade 11, Tasha Parker, art teacher, and Tiona Holkestad, Grade 11, hold up portraits created for The Memory Project, a charitable non-profit organization that gives art students around the world the opportunity to share kindness with their work. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Prince Rupert students share portraits of kindness with children in Peru

The Memory Project gives teens a chance to sharpen their art skills and global awareness

With care, students from Charles Hays Secondary School traced every line, shadow and strand of hair to best reflect the child living in Peru who will one day receive this portrayal of them.

Art teacher Tasha Parker typically has students chose a famous person for their yearly portrait lessons, but then she heard about The Memory Project.

“When I found this project I thought, wow, this project is going to have way, way, way more meaning to it than the projects that I’ve had students do in the past,” Parker said.

The Memory Project has been around since 2004. The charitable organization creates an avenue for art teachers and students to connect with less fortunate children from around the world. By creating “portraits of kindness” children who have been in war, faced poverty or neglect, or have lost their parents, can feel special and know that someone was thinking of them.

“They don’t have many pictures of themselves, so it’s kind of showing them that their childhood can be drawn, so they can look at it when they’re older and know that someone out there is caring for them in a way,” said April Ryan, Grade 11 student.

READ MORE: Annunciation students feed the hungry with custom food bowls

Since the project began there have been more than 130,000 portraits created for children in 47 countries — in Prince Rupert, the students are sending portraits to children in Peru.

In 2017, half the country was in a state of emergency after a coastal El Niño caused extreme rain, floods and wind. It’s been widely reported that more than 250,000 children were affected. Poverty is also on the rise in Peru, according to government data, with more than six million people making less than 338 soles, or $137 Canadian, a month.

While the students at Charles Hays Secondary School work on their portraits they also learn about the situation in Peru, and a little about the child they’re drawing.

“I want them to come to class and not think about themsleves for two weeks, and to think about the little kids they have in front of them,” Parker said.

Each portrait is $20, which goes toward coordinating the photos between countries, creating a video of the children as they receive their portraits, and other associated costs.

“It really made me feel that there’s people in the world that don’t have a lot and I want to give them more than I can,” said Tiona Holkestad, Grade 11. “For this kid, I’m giving him a picture of himself that he can hold on to if he doesn’t have a lot in his life.”

READ MORE: Students sew 1,000 moccasins for Indigenous children in foster care

Parker said she thinks her students have been more engaged this time around.

“I really hope that I can continue this project for the next few years, it’s only unfortunate that every portrait we receive costs $20 and we need to fundraise for that money,” Parker said.

The Memory Project is on display at Cowpuccino’s from April 15-May 10, when the portraits will move into the Lester Centre of the Arts until May 17. Donations for this year’s project, and the next, can be offered at either of these locations.


Shannon Lough | Editor
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Charles Hays Secondary Student, April Ryan, works on her portrait for The Memory Project. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

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