Since the inception of the Lifetouch Memory Mission® in 2000, Lifetouch employees have traveled to destinations around the world to spend a week in intensive volunteer service. Lifetouch hands have helped rebuild a village in war-ravaged Kosovo, repair homes in Appalachia, establish a children’s center in Jamaica, and construct a bridge in the land of the Navajo in Arizona. They have built thirteen schools across Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Memory Mission volunteers have also provided on-site assistance to victims of natural disasters throughout the United States, including Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, floods in the Dakotas, fires in California, and tornadoes across the Midwest.
But Lifetouch brings more than muscle and hard work to each Memory Mission. It’s also about learning new things and developing relationships. “When we go, our purpose is greater than a construction project,” says Jake Barker, senior executive vice president at Lifetouch. “More than anything else, it is our mission to bring hope to the families we serve.” And that hope, he says, has the power to transform people. “Ask any past Memory Mission volunteer about their experience and they will tell you they got more out of it than they gave. They will tell you they came back a changed person.”
Barker credits the power of portraiture for the strong bond that Lifetouch volunteers form with the people in the places they visit and work. “We bring our craft with us,” he says. “So we never leave a site without making time to photograph the families and children.” Often, this is a family’s first portrait. Indeed, some have never even seen themselves in a photograph until a Memory Mission volunteer takes their picture. It can be very emotional. It’s one of the things that makes Lifetouch Memory Missions unique.