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EHS students create portraits of orphans

Seventeen Ellsworth High School art students have drawn the images of South African orphans to be future keepsakes from their childhoods.

The advanced art and studio art students in Kristin Hanson's classes are participating in The Memory Project, an international humanitarian effort. Photos of children living in an orphanage in South Africa were e-mailed to the local students, who created personalized portraits from them last month. The idea is to provide the orphans with a special memory of their earliest years and a permanent reminder of their importance in the world.

Because of poverty and other circumstances, these children have little or no personal belongings. Without parents to share stories of their childhoods, they often have limited knowledge of those years. The particular orphans with whom the local high schoolers were matched have either been abandoned or orphaned because of the growing AIDS crisis.

Several of the EHS artists' works were in a display case at the school's main entryway last week. Their subjects, ranging from infants to grade school age kids, have mostly been drawn in pastels using chalk. Later this term, the renderings of all 17 orphans' faces will be mailed to South Africa, Hanson said Thursday.

Hanson especially appreciated this quote from the project, shown with the display: "Education is much more than a matter of imparting the knowledge and skills by which narrow goals are achieved. It is also about opening the child's eyes to the needs and rights of others."

The project was founded in October of 2004 following the advice of a Guatemalan man. Having grown up in an orphanage, he didn't have any pictures from his earliest years or any parents to share memories of his youth. Consequently, he felt much of his childhood had been forgotten, and he shared this feeling with a group of volunteers working at the orphanage.

One of the volunteers, a college student from the U.S., was moved by his story. Having always had a love for art, he founded the project as a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization after returning home.

The EHS participation was one of several activities held during Youth Art Month in March.