Carmel Academy Artists Create Portraits For Refugee Children

When Carmel Academy sixth grader Aviva Moss enrolled in the school’s Middle School art elective earlier this fall, she said she had no idea the course would become so meaningful for her. 

Aviva and her classmates are participating in The Memory Project, an organization that invites young artists to help cultivate global kindness by creating portraits for children around the world who have faced substantial challenges, such as violence, war or extreme poverty. The portraits help children feel valued and important, to know that many people care about their wellbeing, and to provide a special childhood memory. 

Carmel Academy’s art teacher Lori Amer said she learned about the organization at a conference this past summer where the founder spoke. 

“I found it so moving that I immediately knew I wanted to bring the project to Carmel. This class is the perfect opportunity to help The Memory Project fulfill its mission,” Amer said.

Carmel Academy’s students were asked to paint a portrait of a Rohingya refugee child.  Nearly a million ethnic Rohingya fled genocide in Myanmar last year and are currently living in refugee camps in Bangladesh. For these children, who have virtually no possessions, the portraits will be gifts they could never have previously imagined.
When Carmel Academy sixth grader Aviva Moss enrolled in the school’s Middle School art elective earlier this fall, she said she had no idea the course would become so meaningful for her.

Aviva and her classmates are participating in The Memory Project, an organization that invites young artists to help cultivate global kindness by creating portraits for children around the world who have faced substantial challenges, such as violence, war or extreme poverty. The portraits help children feel valued and important, to know that many people care about their wellbeing, and to provide a special childhood memory. 

Carmel Academy’s art teacher Lori Amer said she learned about the organization at a conference this past summer where the founder spoke.

“I found it so moving that I immediately knew I wanted to bring the project to Carmel. This class is the perfect opportunity to help The Memory Project fulfill its mission,” Amer said.

Carmel Academy’s students were asked to paint a portrait of a Rohingya refugee child.  Nearly a million ethnic Rohingya fled genocide in Myanmar last year and are currently living in refugee camps in Bangladesh. For these children, who have virtually no possessions, the portraits will be gifts they could never have previously imagined.

Carmel’s students learned about the Rohingya people – their culture, roots and history, as well as life in refugee camps.

“We talked about how sad it is, but also how special it is that we can do something to help other children. We also discussed how Jews believe we can't stand idly by when injustice is occurring. I am so proud of the enthusiasm and the care the students have taken with this project, knowing this is a big responsibility," Amer said.

Each Carmel student was sent a photo of each child’s face, as well as the child’s name, age and favorite color. All of the students in the class agreed that the project is one of the most challenging endeavors they have taken on in the art studio.

“As the weeks have gone by, I became more determined to get this right. It is not like my other drawings where I am doing it for fun. I am giving it to someone special and I want her to like it,” said 7th grader Eliana Jesselson, as she worked to put finishing touches on an acrylic portrait she is making for a 4-year-old girl named Rasmin Ara.

Sixth grader Judah Goldemberg said he was very nervous when he embarked on the portrait, which he chose to do using colored pencils. “I didn’t think I was a good enough artist; I didn’t realize I was able to do this. I am really proud of what I have been able to do. I hope Rahim will like it,” he said of the portrait he created for the 5-year-old boy.

The students spent about 8 weeks creating the portraits, which will be sent to the refugee children along with a photo of themselves, their name, age and favorite color.

Aviva said that each time she puts her paint brush on the canvas she feels that she is doing something important for a 5-year-old boy named Osman, who happens to share her favorite color -- blue. “I hope when he receives the portrait, he will know that someone spent a lot of time trying to make something special for him.”
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  • Carmel Academy is a private school for children of all Jewish affiliations, serving children from transitional kindergarten through 8th grade.

Carmel Academy is a recipient of UJA Greenwich, the United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien, Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County and The UJA Federation on New York.