Creating Important Memories: PB Art Teacher Mrs. Cooper and Her Students Bring Smiles to Students Through The Memory Project

Samira White-Walton, Staff Writer

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How do you reach out to people who have experienced trauma and hardship? For Paint Branch art students, the answer is by painting portraits of young people.

Since 2004, the Memory Project has been a global nonprofit organization whose main goal is to provide global kindness by having schools and solo artists create portraits of children from around the world who have been displaced into refugee camps. Once students create the portraits, the pieces are returned to the children as a memorable keepsake.

The Memory Project came to Paint Branch along with art teacher Mrs. Cooper. According to Mrs. Cooper, the program gives students the opportunity to create a memory that will bring great joy to young children, who the Memory Project describe as underprivileged children from around the world “who have faced substantial challenges, such as violence, war, extreme poverty, neglect, and loss of parents.”
Mrs. Cooper has been working with the Memory Project since she first started teaching in Texas, and brought it with her when she started working at Paint Branch four years ago. Mrs. Cooper started working with the organization because she feels that “art can be meaningful, and letting students use their talents to help another child is a special thing that they’ll remember.”

The way the program works, according to Mrs. Cooper, is that she is assigned a country from the Memory Project for her art students and anyone else interested in working on it with her.
Students receive pictures of the children from the Memory Project with the child’s name, age and favorite color attached.
Mrs. Cooper works with her students to create lasting memories for both PB students and the children who receive the paintings.
After students finish the work, Mrs. Cooper sends the portraits to the Memory Project, who then send back a delivery video of the student reactions receiving the portraits.
This year, Mrs. Cooper and the 15 students participating received 15 pictures of children from Syria and began painting in January.
Mrs. Cooper started working with the program because of her great love for the program’s goal. The Memory Project aims to help children feel valued and important, to know that many people care about their well-being, and to provide a special childhood memory for the future. Her goal for the PB students who work on the project is “to understand that there’s someone who is worse off than us, and there is always someone suffering more than we are.”

Mrs. Cooper hopes that the refugees receiving the portraits back gain “a sense that there’s good in the world and that people care.”

Since she began working with the project, Mrs. Cooper has learned that the students have “really enjoyed and care about helping other children with what they are going through.”
Mrs. Cooper’s favorite memory with the project is “the year we received pictures to paint portraits from Ethiopia, because Paint Branch has a large community of Ethiopians and they felt a great connection to the delivery video.”

To find out more about the program visit them at:

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