Meet the man who does portraits for orphans
Ben Schumaker from Madison, Wisconsin USA, has added a little magic to many children in orphanages in Central America. He met a wonderful lady called Helen Vindus who moved from Costa Rica to Nicaragua to run an orphanage.
It’s called the Centro Infantil Cristiano Nicaraguense (CICRIN) and is on the island of Ometepe in the middle of Lake Nicaragua at the base of a volcano. She is making a safe place for the children who have had a terrible life.
Many of then come from very troubled backgrounds of drug addicted parents and similar. If they are not orphans, they have been abandoned or taken away from their parents as it is too dangerous for them to stay.
Ben realized these children had nothing of their own in the way of memories and have to share everything. He came up with the wonderful idea of having portraits painted for each child. You know yourself how children love to look at images of themselves as in photographs, so this was a great idea.
Of course, Ben could not paint all the portraits himself so he established the Portraits For Orphans in 2004. He still runs the project from a bedroom in his parents home and he created it to establish a sense of personal heritage for the children.
He arranges for photographs to be taken of each child in an orphanage and then sends the photographs to High School
Art Teachers across the USA. The teachers then assign these photographs to their Art Students.
These students have to spend hours studying the photos, especially the eyes, and it wakes them up to the reality of all these children around the world without parents. Ben really believes it raises the level of compassion in young students who will one day become adults.
The first year he started, 500 portraits were painted with Ben going back to the orphanage with a suitcase weighing 62lbs full of images of the children. Seeing the joy and disbelief on the faces of the children as they were handed their portrait was enough for Ben to know he was doing a wonderful thing. Now, 5000 portraits are painted annually to be sent all around the world. That’s 40,000 up to today!
Comments from “Portraits Of Orphans” Art Teachers:
“ I want to tell you what an awesome experience you have provided for my students through this project. I have been teaching for 30 years and I have never had my students more engaged in their art.”
“This is a very beautiful and uplifting project for me and my students. Thank you for letting us participate.”
“Our students said that this was one of the most moving experiences they have ever had and one that they will always remember after Art School.”
I think Ben Schumaker is a very special young man who has brought great happiness to many young children with so little to look forward to in life. I am sure his parents are extremely proud of him and it will be interesting to see what he does next!
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