It all started with an email that Ms. Kelly McBrien, NAHS advisor, received nine years ago.
The email, from an organization called the Memory Project, asked a simple question: Would the small group of Red Lion NAHS students be interested in drawing some portraits?
The subjects of the portraits were orphans from all over the world. The drawings quickly became known as ‘Porphans.’
Over the years, photographs of orphans have come to Red Lion from several third-world countries, such as Bolivia, Madagascar, Haiti or Cambodia. This semester, NAHS members are drawing children from Colombia.
“It’s one of my favorite things that we do,” junior Keely Bluett, NAHS President, said. “I like it because it takes something that we do artistically here at Red Lion and makes it global.”
Students have liked the project so much that Ms. McBrien offers it at least twice a year, once each semester. Sometimes, she offers it even more.
The process starts with the artists receiving the photos of the orphans, and students then have a certain amount of time to work on their artwork. When they’re done, the portrait goes in a sleeve with the original photo to be sent back to the Memory Project.
From there, the organization photographs the artwork and delivers the finished product to the orphans in person.
“The portraits serve as just a keepsake for them,” Ms. McBrien said. “It’s a sort of momento because they don’t have many possessions of their own.”
The Memory Project, based in Wisconsin, was founded in 2004 by Ben Schumaker. After spending a month volunteering with children in Guatemala, Schumaker realized that many of them did not have any belongings that were special to them.
From there, the idea of creating portraits of these children was born. The project allows for disadvantaged children to receive a unique gift as well as giving art students the chance to hone their skills and give back to others.
Yearly, the organization delivers portraits to 4-6 countries through the months between January and July. Since 2004, the Memory Project has delivered over 90,000 portraits in 42 countries.