Students paint portraits of compassion for Syrian children

KING 5's Eric Wilkinson reports

SNOHOMISH -- In Mrs. Tanasse's 4th period art class on Friday, the subject matter was a bit of a mystery.

"I know he's 9 years old," said Cole Eydt.

"She likes pink a lot," giggled Lauren Petri.

"I know that his name is Ahmed," added Abby Price.

Those few characteristics are about all Tanasse's students at Glacier Peak High School in Snohomish know about the people they're painting.

The one commonality among the 31 faces is that they are all child refugees from the Syrian civil war.

"I feel like she's been through a lot even though she's super young," said Petri of her subject. "More than anyone her age should have to deal with."

Last month, students were given a photograph of a Syrian child, along with only the most basic additional information. Some things, though, didn't need to be spoken.    

"When I look in his eyes I can tell that he's pretty sad," said Eydt.

After two weeks of studying the children's faces, a strange sort of bond was formed.

"It's interesting to get to know someone without actually knowing them," said Price, a sophomore. "I know all the quirks of his face. I kind of see myself in him."

According to Cathy Tanasse, a deeper, subconscious connection appears to have been formed, as well. 

"One thing I didn't expect was that a lot of times the students would choose pictures of kids, and they looked like they're related. I think that's another layer of these kids relating to children from a different background, a different country, a different age."

To Tanasse, it made sense. Those Syrian children are, after all, somebody's brother or sister or cousin.

And there are more than 2 million of them suffering right now.

"We're definitely sending a message that we're all in this together as people," said Eydt.

In the short span of just a few weeks, the two very different cultures have been drawn together by the simple hope of a more peaceful future.

"I want to be his friend," said Price. "I hope it makes him feel like he's not alone, and there are people who care about him no matter what."

The portraits are part of "The Memory Project." They will soon be sent to those kids in Syria. The class is trying to raise about $500 for the materials to do so. To learn how to help, click here.

Copyright 2016 KING


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