SAN DIEGO — Student artists from Cathedral Catholic High School recently brought smiles to the faces of Ukrainian child refugees living in Poland.
The students did this in collaboration with the Memory Project, a nonprofit that invites students to create portraits for youth who have experienced war, extreme poverty or other serious difficulties.
This is the sixth time that Cathedral Catholic students have participated in the Memory Project, having previously made portraits of children in the Philippines (fall 2019), Pakistan (spring 2019), Malaysia (2020), India (2021) and Nigeria (2022).
“It is one of my favorite projects I do with my National Art Honor Society students at Cathedral Catholic,” said Kristin Brandeberry, the visual art teacher.
The Memory Project sent photos of the children, along with such information as their first name, favorite color and what they want to be when they grow up. The students then had creative freedom to paint or draw their child in whatever style they wanted.
Leeann Remiker, a senior, was among the 10 Cathedral Catholic students who participated in the Memory Project this year.
“I’ve been doing the Memory Project for the last three years, and it has been one of the most fulfilling artistic experiences of my life,” she said. “The project shows our ability as artists to make people smile, even in tough times, and allows me to use my talents for good.”
A Jan. 11 post on the school’s Facebook page had a link to a video of the Memory Project delivering the finished portraits to the Ukrainian children and their parents.
“These portraits will remind us that in the world, in addition to bad people, there are still good, sensitive, kind and compassionate people!” one Ukrainian parent wrote, in a message shown in the video. “All the best and God’s blessings to you!”
Another wrote, “Thank you so much, you made a wonderful gift for my son. He liked it very much. Now the portrait will hang in the apartment, and we will talk about your kind hearts. May God bless you all.”
“I am so proud of our students using their gifts to lift the spirits of the Ukrainian people,” Brandeberry said. “When watching the video of the portrait delivery, it is clear how much the portraits are cherished.”
The experience was also a rewarding one for the young artists.
“This project allowed me to connect with the children of Ukraine, and give back in any way I could,” said Kaelin Manzoni, a junior at the school. “It was a privilege to be able to illustrate (my portrait subject’s) happiness.”
Rylee Parker, a senior, said, “I love how creating a portrait can help bring people together all over the world.”