Painting compassion

Artwork created for disadvantaged youth in Afghanistan by NDP IB Art students gets delivered.

Portraits created by last school-year's senior student-artists in NDP's International Baccalaureate art program were finally delivered to orphans living in Afghanistan as part of the "Memory Project,” a unique initiative in which art students create portraits for children and teens around the world who have been neglected, orphaned or disadvantaged.

The art was completed and shipped to the children just before the seniors — Brianna Manzor, Eliana Gebara, Natalie Lyijynen, Kevin Cragg, Juliet Jacoby, Riley Cooper, Katie Lee and Marianna Ortiz Luna — graduated in May.

Administrators affiliated with The Memory Project told Notre Dame's art chair Sandy LewAllen that the kids in Afghanistan were thrilled to open their portraits.

"We're so pleased to let you know that the portraits you created were delivered to the children in Afghanistan, and they absolutely loved them," a representative from The Memory Project said. "As you can see in the video, the children were so excited to receive your artwork and very touched by your efforts. They fully understood that creating the portraits was a way to show them how much you care about their well-being and their future."

Check out the video below showing many of the children in Afghanistan as they received their portraits.

The charitable nonprofit organization Memory Project invites art teachers and their students around the world  to create and donate their portraits to youth who have faced substantial challenges, such as neglect, abuse, loss of parents, violence and extreme poverty.

LewAllen has been coordinating this activity with her IB students beginning in 2011 and since then, Notre Dame has shipped portraits to orphans in Peru, Haiti, Ghana, Congo, Mexico, and now Afghanistan.

"This is a beautiful example of students using their gifts to make the world a better place," she said.

Administrators from the Memory Project say that kids in such situations tend to have few personal keepsakes, and project organizers aim to provide them with special memories that capture a piece of their childhood – portable pieces of their personal history. As much as possible, they said the Memory Project also wants to help the kids see themselves as "works of art."

Officials with the Memory Project said they were very grateful for all of the extra time and effort LewAllen and her students put into making the project possible. 

"Thank you for helping us build international friendship and solidarity through the arts," they said. "It is our true privilege to do this work with you, and we very much hope to have that privilege again."

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About Notre Dame 
Notre Dame is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named Michigan's best 50 Catholic high school three of the last four years ( Notre Dame's lower and middle schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All Notre Dame schools have been authorized by International Baccalaureate as "World Schools" and the entire institution is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers. It is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame, visit the school's home page at