Friday, January 26, 2007

Area Students Reach Out To Orphans In Sierra Leone

(CBS) MONTROSE Students in one of the richest counties in America are connecting with compassion to orphans in one of the poorest nations on the planet.
"If all the work we've done here can just put a smile on these kids' faces, then it's all worth it," said Corey Glaser, a junior at Hendrick Hudson High School in northern Westchester County.
Glaser involved his art class in The Memory Project, after seeing a profile of project founder Ben Schumaker on The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.
Schumaker obtains photographs of orphans from relief agencies around the world, then sends them to American high schools, where talented art students paint portraits of the orphans. The portraits are then shipped to the orphans, and often become their most-prized possessions.
"Because they're orphans, they don't have many pictures of themselves," said Glaser. "They have nothing of their own, it's very hard for them, so different from how we have it here. It's just nice to be able to help them in their times of trouble."
The students at Hen Hud, as the high school is known, painted and sketched about two-dozen portraits of orphans from Sierra Leone, a small nation in West Africa that has the lowest per-capita gross domestic product in the world.
Many of the orphans lost their families during the civil war that was dramatized in the recent feature film Blood Diamond. Several of the students saw the movie in order to learn more about life in Sierra Leone.
Hen Hud junior Zach Moore-Hopkins painted a "pop art"-style portrait of a young orphan named Christopher Kaprie.
"He just looks like he could be a friend," Moore-Hopkins said as he looked at the photograph that inspired his portrait. "He's smiling, happy, despite everything he's been through."
Along with the portraits, the students will send the orphans letters, and pictures of themselves.
Hen Hud junior Jessica Weinberg painted an orphan named Jahanu, and wrote to her: "Your face stood out from all the others, and I knew I wanted to paint you. From the look in your eyes, you seemed a little mysterious. Do you like to play jokes on other kids?"
Weinberg's portrait shows Jahanu against a vivid lime green background, wearing a bright shirt.
"I just wanted to make sure, not matter how ugly the day was, how sad she was, I want her to look at it and see really bright things," Weinberg said. "That's why I did the lime color, the orange tee-shirt. I want to give her a sense of happiness every time she looks at it."
Teacher Paula Correale said it was a joy to watch the students grow in technique, and compassion, as they painted and sketched the orphans.
"It makes the students here appreciate all that they have," Correale said. "I kept telling them, look into eyes of the orphans in the photos. Capture the soul, capture the spirit."
"I look at everyone of the portraits, and I can feel those poor kids, connect with them."
Student artist Evelyn Stamey said she can't give money to change the orphans' lives, but she can give of her talent as an artist.
"I want them to realize that they're loved," Stamey said, "even if no one really shows it."

Link to wcbstv.com