Think Help-Portrait, but with painted portraits instead of digital ones. We loved hearing about what the folks at The Memory Project are doing for kids around the world and wanted to share it with the Help-Portrait Community.

The Memory Project creates keepsakes for children who don’t have so much as a family photo. The Memory Project recruits artists — mostly high school art students — to paint portraits of orphans from around the world. The portraits are then given to the children, in many cases becoming one of their few possessions.

Ben SchumakerBen Schumaker started the Memory Project in 2004 as a social work grad student at the University of Wisconsin. It was featured on Katie Couric’s first CBS Evening News broadcast and quickly became a full time job. Since then more than 25,000 portraits have been painted and delivered to children in more than 30 countries.

What gave you the idea to start this project?

Ben Schumaker: I was volunteering at an orphanage in Guatemala in 2003 when a man there pointed out that the kids didn’t have many personal keepsakes to contribute to their sense of self-identity. I had always enjoyed doing portraits in high school, so I thought it could be pretty powerful to get art students involved in making portraits for the kids. From that starting point, it was just a matter of taking one step at a time. Invite a few high schools to make portraits, invite an orphanage to receive portraits, get a few more high schools, another orphanage, and so on.

Why portraits? Can art change the world in a way some other form of aid can’t?

In this case I feel we are using art to add a personal touch that food and medicine can’t. Most of the kids who receive the portraits actually have most of their “basic needs” covered—they have a roof over the heads and are going to school. So for them the portraits are meant simply to make their childhoods a little more personal, a little more colorful. Something they can hang in their lockers. The portraits are meant to be special gifts in the same category as birthday presents, a day at the beach or other things they may remember fondly when looking back at their childhoods.

What kind of change in the life of a child does this effort make?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that getting a portrait changes a child’s life in the same way a heart transplant does, but I have met kids who genuinely seem to value their portraits more than any other items they might own. Some orphanages have told me that their kids started to prop the portraits on their pillows after making their beds. Another orphanage told me that whenever new visitors arrived the kids got their portraits out of their lockers and showed them off. So it’s that type of thing—not a heart transplant that keeps a child alive, but just something that’s made life a little bit more fun.

You run My Class Cares together with your wife to support other projects impacting students. Your work seems to pair American students with kids around the world—why the emphasis on one-on-one connections?

I think the one-on-one connection really makes the project more engaging to everyone involved. For the American art students, I think it’s powerful to know that their gifts are going to specific children rather than a group in general. Likewise, for the kids who receive the portraits, I think it’s meaningful to know that a particular portrait was custom made by one person who cared. Even if the portrait didn’t turn out to be a masterpiece, there’s a heartfelt effort behind it to count for something.

What can we do to support the Memory Project?

Anyone who enjoys creating art is welcome to create portraits for the project. It isn’t necessary to be an art student in a school.

For the non-artists among us, the best way to support the project is to call or e-mail art teachers at a local school to let them know about the project. And of course, like every nonprofit, financial donations are always welcome!

Visit the Memory Project’s website for more on creating portraits and supporting this project.

This interview by Kevin D. Hendricks was first published at HalogenTV.com. Used with permission.

Posted on Feb 22, 2011  |  Category: Inspiration  |  1 Comment
  • barb selmer barb selmer

    hello! we are a small group of people opening an orphanage in kenya on feb. 28, 2012. barb brandtner has shared information about you project with me and i am hoping we can work together in the near future. thank you for your caring and generosity. our website is being updated, but please have a look if you are interested: www.lordshouseofhope.org i will be in touch with barb brandtner (notre dame academy, green bay, wi.) also. thank you. barb selmer
    barb selmer | 21/01/2012 9:32 PM

Nashville singer/songwriter Andy Davis (@AndyDavis) is no stranger to the Help-Portrait community.  Davis was one of the songwriters that penned the song inspired by H-P titled “I See You” (get the free download from Noisetrade if you haven’t!). When we saw that Davis is raising support for his next album, we wanted to share this with the community to rally behind him and help raise meals for the homeless at the same time!

Andy Davis is asking for funds to record, produce, market and distribute his new album via Kickstarter.  If you are not familiar with Kickstarter, it is the largest funding platform for creative projects.  Davis is asking for $30,000 to complete a new album by this Spring. So far he has more than 295 backers and needs just over $10,000 to reach his goal. He must reach this goal in less than one week by Thursday, Feb. 24th.

The awesome thing about this project is that Davis is also partnering with his favorite local Nashville eatery, Baja Burrito, to bring meals to the homeless for every backer he receives.  Right now more than 295 meals will be provide from Baja Burrito for the homeless via the Nashville Rescue Mission!

Let’s help Andy Davis reach his goal and bring more meals to the Nashville homeless community.

Posted on Feb 17, 2011  |  Category: Inspiration  |  3 Comments
  • Ron Ron

    This is so awesome! I hope he does it! I can't afford to help right now, but I will pass this along.
    Ron | 17/02/2011 4:22 PM

  • Tweets that mention Andy Davis Raises Money for Album + Homeless Meals | Help-Portrait | 03 Dec 2011 -- Topsy.com Tweets that mention Andy Davis Raises Money for Album + Homeless Meals | Help-Portrait | 03 Dec 2011 -- Topsy.com

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by caranicoledavis, Help-Portrait. Help-Portrait said: Friend of @Help_Portrait @andydavis is raising money for a new project and meals for the homeless. Let's help him! http://ow.ly/3YhBI [...]
    Tweets that mention Andy Davis Raises Money for Album + Homeless Meals | Help-Portrait | 03 Dec 2011 -- Topsy.com | 17/02/2011 5:41 PM

  • Jeremy Knop Jeremy Knop

    The idea of a marriage between music and charity is something that always touches me every time. I did not know previously about Kickstarter. This is very valuable information, thank you. Learning something new is always a plus.
    Jeremy Knop | 17/02/2011 11:33 PM

Like Help-Portrait, many ideas start simply, then strike a chord with audiences online and spread quickly. So it was with yesterday’s Generosity Day.

On Friday, Sasha Dichter (@sashadichter), who is the Director of Business Development at Acumen Fund, a global non-profit venture fund that invests in enterprises that fight poverty in the developing world, posted a blog entry that challenged people to turn Valentine’s Day into an opportunity for greater good.

Inspired by a talk at last week’s Social Media Week New York, the idea was to “reboot” Valentine’s Day as “Generosity Day: one day of sharing love with everyone, of being generous to everyone,” he wrote. “Let’s make the day about love, action and human connection – because we can do better than smarmy greeting cards, overpriced roses, and stressed-out couples trying to create romantic meals on the fly.”

The goal was to spend the day saying “yes” to everything that was asked of you – all day long, leading to big and small acts of generosity. Those who participated were encouraged to share their experiences by tweeting and using the hashtag #generosityday.

More than 3,000 people tweeted and bloggers and national media picked up on the story.

And for good reason. We’re all in favor of ways to encourage giving back – in big and small ways – and look forward to Generosity Day becoming a yearly tradition. Who’s with us?

You can join www.facebook.com/generosityday for updates.

Posted on Feb 15, 2011  |  Category: Inspiration  |  1 Comment
  • Tweets that mention Generosity Day Reboots a Traditional Valentine’s | Help-Portrait | 03 Dec 2011 -- Topsy.com Tweets that mention Generosity Day Reboots a Traditional Valentine’s | Help-Portrait | 03 Dec 2011 -- Topsy.com

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jim Montgomery, Deborah Lee, Leslie McDaniel, Lori Mahon, James Currie and others. James Currie said: RT @help_portrait: We loved this idea: rebooting Valentine's Day as #generosityday http://ow.ly/3Wx4A [...]
    Tweets that mention Generosity Day Reboots a Traditional Valentine’s | Help-Portrait | 03 Dec 2011 -- Topsy.com | 15/02/2011 2:30 PM

We saw this post about giving back with flowers today on Design*Sponge and just had to share it with the Help-Portrait Community. We love it when we see others bringing beauty to the community in creative ways. With a similar approach as H-P, Jaime at The Monkey Flower Group in Napa, Calif., launched a fantastic new project called Flowers to Care that provides simple, low-cost flower arrangements to members of the community who wouldn’t otherwise have them.

Check out Jaime’s site to donate an arrangement (you’ll even get an email with a artful picture of the arrangement for personal use).

Read more at Design*Sponge.

Posted on Feb 08, 2011  |  Category: Inspiration  |  1 Comment
  • Tweets that mention Flower Group Brings Fresh Bouquets to Communities in Need | Help-Portrait | 03 Dec 2011 -- Topsy.com Tweets that mention Flower Group Brings Fresh Bouquets to Communities in Need | Help-Portrait | 03 Dec 2011 -- Topsy.com

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by caranicoledavis, Help-Portrait. Help-Portrait said: It's the floral version of @help_portrait! Check out The Monkey Flower Group http://ow.ly/3SAU2 [...]
    Tweets that mention Flower Group Brings Fresh Bouquets to Communities in Need | Help-Portrait | 03 Dec 2011 -- Topsy.com | 08/02/2011 6:46 PM

Sasha Leahovcenco is a photographer originally from the Republic of Moldova, but who moved to Fresno, Calif., about three years ago. Inspired by Help-Portrait, he traveled to Chukotka, Russia, for a unique opportunity to share the gift of photography with people who live at the literal ends of the earth. Traveling into the very deep Tundra where small tribal groups of reindeer herders live, he stayed photographed them in their everyday life. He calls it “a life-changing experience,” citing his experience at a hospital for children with tuberculosis as “the most memorable.” We talked with Sasha about his experience, his motivation and how everyone can give back with whatever they have in their hands.

How did you get into photography?

It’s interesting, but I never thought I would be a photographer. The only reason I started is because I couldn’t find a job on the campus of the university where I was studying, and the only available position was photographer for the university scrapbook. So I took several pictures send it to my brother-in-law Ross, he edited them and sent me back, and with those pictures I showed up on the interview and presented my portfolio. Next thing I remember, I was sitting reading “DSLR Camera for Dummies.”

What’s your favorite type of work?

I really enjoy photo-journalistic work. For the most time I photograph weddings, and being a wedding photographer allows me to capture a unique story of very important day in life of different couples.

Also, I like editorial work, and this trip allowed me to push myself more in this direction.

How did you learn about Help-Portrait?

I believe first time I heard about Help-Portrait was from my brother-in-law Ross, founder of Flosites, when he started building a new site for H-P.

Sasha with the kids from the hospital (sashaleahovcenco.com)

What about it inspired you to do a similar project?

The whole idea of making someone’s life better even with a such small thing as a photograph was enough for me to step up and try to make a difference.

What brought you to Chukotka, Russia?

Two years ago I became friend with a man who was a missionary in Pevek, Chukotka (northest city in Russia), and he invited me to come and just photograph life of people who live there. And since than I always wanted to come, but never had time and possibility. And last summer I went to Moldova to visit my family, and my friend was also in Moldova at the time. Both of us had busy schedules, yet we still met for about 20 minutes, and once again he invited me to come to Chukotka. I knew next year will be very busy for me, so I decided to come during the winter break. There were a lot of challenges due to my work schedule, financial problems, my car broke down just before the trip, yet I got on the plane and went to Chukotka.

Sasha with reindeer herders inside the yaranga (sashaleahovcenco.com)

How did you choose the places where you would photograph?

I visited 2 cities, 2 villages, and the Tundra (where I photographed reindeer herders). In total I hosted about 10 different Help-Portrait events.

Prior to the trip I planned some of them ahead with the local people I knew, and some just came right there on the spot, such as event I did in a hospital for kids with tuberculosis.

How long were you there?

I was there for a month.

Were you alone? What did you bring with you?

No, I came with another five people who were organizing different events and social projects for kids, teenagers and youth.

I could bring only limited amount of stuff due to weight limits of Russian airports. I had warm clothes, as the temperature there were getting down to -45F. And my photo equipment – couple of camera bodies, couple of lenses, flashes, stands, umbrellas, portables printer and lots of photo paper.

Tell us about some of the people you met. Had they been photographed before?

I met a lot of different people; those who’ve been photographed before, those who haven’t been photographed, and those who barely knew anything about photos.

Assistants in the Tundra (sashaleahovcenco.com)

What do you think what you did meant to them?

If I would choose one word to say, it would be “memory.” More than that – “good memories.” And let me explain why. Eight months during the year – it’s winter there. More than that half of this time, people don’t see sun, because its just don’t raise up.  People are just depressed.

Sights that you would think would never happen is part of the daily life everyday and everywhere in Chukotka. And when I was photographing them, that was the moment when they actually could smile and forget all their troubles and problems in life and feel happy for a minute, and I would capture that on a photo, which they will cherish, I believe for the rest their life.

What did it mean to you?

Maybe some people would look at the photos, and say that it’s not that big of a deal. But for me, as a photographer, that’s how I can give back and serve people. And as someone said: “We have not lived today if we hadn’t made even something for those who will never be able to pay us back.”

On your site you say I believe this life is not about what we can get, but what we can give. In what ways can photography give back?

I don’t think photography in general can give back. But it’s life as photographers that we live, which can give back. I believe every person on this planet is talented in one way or another, and this talent is not just for us, but also that’s how we can serve and give back to the people around us. And each of us need to ask what you’ve got in your hands. I’ve got a camera, and with that camera I can give back and serve others.

For more photos from the trip, visit sashaleahovcenco.com.

Posted on Feb 01, 2011  |  Category: Inspiration  |  10 Comments
  • Tweets that mention Sasha Leahovcenco Takes Help-Portrait to the Ends of the Earth | Help-Portrait | 03 Dec 2011 -- Topsy.com Tweets that mention Sasha Leahovcenco Takes Help-Portrait to the Ends of the Earth | Help-Portrait | 03 Dec 2011 -- Topsy.com

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by caranicoledavis and cameronpowell, Help-Portrait. Help-Portrait said: An inspiring read from the blog: @sashaphotog took @help_portrait to the ends of the earth last month http://ow.ly/3OjAm [...]
    Tweets that mention Sasha Leahovcenco Takes Help-Portrait to the Ends of the Earth | Help-Portrait | 03 Dec 2011 -- Topsy.com | 01/02/2011 7:57 PM

  • mikhail glabets mikhail glabets

    amazing! Always great to read bout photographers putting them selves aside and going across the world to captures moments in other wonderful lives.
    mikhail glabets | 01/02/2011 8:26 PM

  • Jeremy Knop Jeremy Knop

    I love that Sasha was able to take the concept of giving through photography first displayed internationally by Help-Portrait. Then he was able to do something that was so full of compassion for people literally on the other side of the world as you say. There is something that can be said about the character of a person that is willing to go so far and to such great lengths to give back. I wish I could travel somewhere remote to do this for a village of people in a far off land. I must give Jeremy a heartfelt thanks on getting the word out on doing this as a service for people so that other people could get excited about it and find motivation to do something like what Sasha has done here. I started a photography company out of high school and have always photographed friends and family who all struggled financially and I have always wanted to do this but just didn't know how I would get the word out to as many people as I would have wanted? So I also thank Jeremy for motivating me to do my own little version of Help-Portrait but on a daily basis which I have been wanting to do for over 10 years now. Jeremy, you finally got me off the bench and into the game. I started my endeavor last week and have already shot my first session. And I hope to participate in Help-Portrait 2011 in Phoenix where I live now or somewhere nearby.
    Jeremy Knop | 01/02/2011 10:56 PM

  • Aleksey Aleksey

    Dear Friends, I was in Chukotka l and saw the hardships Sasha had to go through last month, traveling in freezing tundra, nearly loosing his fingers to frostbite... What he was doing there was AMAZING! I am honored to know you Sasha!
    Aleksey | 03/02/2011 1:31 AM

  • Jeremy Knop Jeremy Knop

    Aleksey, wow! Did not know that! I am in awe... Sasha, I hope you are okay now and everything though I know how frostbite can be when it is bad. One of my family members fell through ice and down into a river one year and its serious stuff.
    Jeremy Knop | 03/02/2011 1:43 AM

  • Sasha Sasha

    Thanks for all your kind words, guys!
    Sasha | 07/02/2011 7:31 AM

  • MIRIAM BOSQUES MIRIAM BOSQUES

    Es maravilloso todo el trabajo que haces y muy signiicativo el que vivas los momentos intensamenteal convivir con las personas a las que retratas y puedess ver de cerca sus costumbres su cultura es muy7 hermoso porque haces de tu trabajo no algo simple algo que vale la pena y que da vida a tus fotos aunque tengasque aguantar mucho friogracias por mostrar lo que haces
    MIRIAM BOSQUES | 15/02/2011 1:13 AM

  • Behind the Scenes at Sasha Leahovcenco’s Help-Portrait: Chukotka, Russia | Help-Portrait | 03 Dec 2011 Behind the Scenes at Sasha Leahovcenco’s Help-Portrait: Chukotka, Russia | Help-Portrait | 03 Dec 2011

    [...] weeks back we highlighted a special Help-Portrait project by Sasha Leahovcenco (“Sasha Leahovcenco Takes Help-Portrait to the Ends of the Earth”). Inspired by Help-Portrait, he traveled to Chukotka, Russia, for a unique opportunity to share the [...]
    Behind the Scenes at Sasha Leahovcenco’s Help-Portrait: Chukotka, Russia | Help-Portrait | 03 Dec 2011 | 23/03/2011 4:02 AM

  • O primeiro encontro. Fótografos e fotografados – Cláudio Versiani O primeiro encontro. Fótografos e fotografados – Cláudio Versiani

    [...] Sasha Leahovcenco Takes Help-Portrait to the Ends of the Earth [...]
    O primeiro encontro. Fótografos e fotografados – Cláudio Versiani | 22/09/2011 10:59 AM

  • Sasha Leahovcenco: Help-Portrait, Nigeria | Help-Portrait Worldwide » 07 DEC 2013 Sasha Leahovcenco: Help-Portrait, Nigeria | Help-Portrait Worldwide » 07 DEC 2013

    […] except small tribal groups of reindeer herders. He called it a life-changing experience. (Read our interview with […]
    Sasha Leahovcenco: Help-Portrait, Nigeria | Help-Portrait Worldwide » 07 DEC 2013 | 03/12/2013 3:55 PM