Portraits of kindness: Bothell fourth-graders use art to spread cheer to Puerto Rico

BOTHELL, Wash. -- Inside Jeanine Lipp’s art class, fourth graders from Evergreen Academy are painting a pretty good picture of kindness, methodically mixing colors and creating works of art.

“Everyone of these paintings are different because we are all different,” Lipp said to the group of budding artists as she walked around her classroom.

“It’s okay if the paint brush dries out a little bit,” Lipp added as she brought out colored pencils in addition to the paint.

“I just like drawing. It’s like creating your own universe,” said 10-year-old Asher Strom, coloring in the ocean blue to his picture of Earth.

These artists are probably proudest of their most recent creation -- portraits of other children for the nonprofit "The Memory Project."

“I thought it was really cool and fun to do,” said 9-year-old Alexandra Lugo, adding “ a little, like, sad for the children that have lost a lot of things.”

“I fell in love with this project right away because I knew that the children would really get something out of it,” said Lipp.

This past fall, the fourth graders each received a picture of a child — almost their age — living in the recently hurricane ravaged country of Puerto Rico.

“I love the looks on their faces when they reveal who they get,” said Lipp. “How old they are and what their favorite color is, and we talk about some of the difficulties that they are going through.”

“My girl liked red, and she was actually 6 years old,” said Lugo.

The pictures the students received were of children who have faced extreme challenges like war, extreme poverty, loss of parents, or catastrophic disaster.

“It’s to help kids in Puerto Rico from hurricanes and to help cheer them up,” Strom explained.

He and many others in his class hope their meticulous tracing and careful coloring will give kids halfway around the world something to smile about.

“We did shadowing on it to make it look almost 3D,” Strom explained, proudly holding up his drawing. “I worked harder cause I knew it was going to be for someone, and I wanted it to be perfect.”

“So that they know that we care about them even though we’re all the way over here,” added 9-year-old Brayden Sam.

If the faces and laughter from the portraits The Memory Project delivered to Afghanistan last year are any indication, they already have.

“I think it’s important that you should help people,” Strom said. “It just makes you feel really good inside that you’re helping someone have a good holidays.”

The portraits won’t necessarily change the circumstance of the challenges the children are facing, but the nonprofit believes the hand-delivered art and written messages promote kindness and provide a sense of hope.

“The takeaway for them in my opinion is that humanity is universal, and it doesn’t matter what form a person comes in -- what color, what size, what language they speak, what religion they have -- we are all human beings, and we all need to care about each other,” said Lipp.

And if a picture is worth a thousand words, these portraits send a powerful message.

“That we thought about them and that we cared,” said Strom.