How Vista Art Students are Giving Back to the World

Student Hannah Meyer works diligently on her art piece

Natalia Maverakis

Student Hannah Meyer works diligently on her art piece

Art students at Vista del Lago are participating in a nationwide project to give a childhood memory to orphans all over the world.

The students at Vista have been taking part in the Memory Project for three years, and by the end of the project, both the students and the children will have gained a meaningful memory.

“The students feel a real connection,” said Gayle Martin, Drawing and Painting teacher and head of the Memory Project at Vista. Her students can choose to receive a picture of an orphan from a selected country, and then paint that child. When they finish, the paintings are mailed back to the children so they can have a memorable childhood experience, despite their situation.

Ben Schumaker created this project in 2004 and it is still run by him today.

Artists have made nearly 50,000 portraits for children in over 34 different countries.

Schumaker came up with the idea while volunteering at an orphanage in Guatemala, when he realized that the kids didn’t own too many things, let alone any belongings to represent in their childhood. (

This year, Vista art students are working on portraits for children in Mexico. They will send them by May 2014, but hope to get them in before Christmas.

Doing the project is not mandatory in the class, but students participate out of the goodness of their hearts. The cost is $15 dollars to make a painting to cover shipping costs, and Martin takes part in it every year.

Senior Lauren Downing is in Martin’s Drawing and Painting class and participated because she wanted to give a gift to a less fortunate child. She says that the project is also a test of her artistic ability.

“It’s for a good cause, but it’s a lot of stress trying to draw the face correctly because we don’t want to disappoint the kids,” Downing said.

Giving back to less fortunate countries gives a public face to how lucky our kids really are. The benefits are mutual, because the students are humbled at the end of the project and have made a difference in the world, one child at a time.

As a student you can get involved. Go to to enter.