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Multicultural gesture of generosity

by Archives February 2, 2005

St. Ignatius of Loyola, the church on Concordia’s Loyola campus, played host to a multi-cultural concert Saturday in aid of Sri Lankan children who were affected by the tsunami.

Last month’s tsunami killed more than 30,000 people in Sri Lanka, a tiny island off the South-Eastern Coast of India. Nearly 450,000 Sri Lankans have been displaced from their homes, and more than 15,000 were injured.

Musicians from different ethnic backgrounds joined to raise money for the most vulnerable of the Sri Lankan victims – the children.

The concert was organized by Patrick McLaughlin and Mariam Odayar. McLaughlin, a native Irishman from Derry City, is a family therapist. After seeing the images of the devastation in Sri Lanka, he proposed the idea to Odayar, and they decided to put together a concert.

Odayar, a professional social worker, was born in Kandy, a city east of Sri Lanka’s capital. She is a former president of the Sri Lanka Canada Association of Montreal, a community group that serves Sri Lankans living in Montreal.

“When I saw the children suffering in Sri Lanka, I wanted to help,” she said. “They have nothing left.”

The enthusiastic audience welcomed musicians from the Irish, Chinese, Sri Lankan, Scottish, Indian and Peruvian communities. The concert included Sri Lankan, Hindi and Irish dancing.

The crowd was particularly responsive during the final song, when Sri Lankan musicians joined the Irish for a rendering of “Oh Danny Boy”.

“We really wanted it to be a multi-cultural gesture of generosity towards the children of Sri Lanka,” McLaughlin explained. “And we wanted the multi-cultural dimension to be reflected in the structure of the concert itself.”

Sarath Dassanayake was one of many who offered their musical services free of charge. “It’s very nice that all the communities came out,” the Sri Lankan performer said. “I like it a lot.”

In his opening speech McLaughlin said, “It’s important that we all come together and let the children know they are not alone. By doing this, we let the children know we love them.”

The concert was especially significant because it took place more than a month after the tsunami hit. “There’s still a horrendous need,” McLaughlin said. “In another month, the Tsunami will be forgotten. It’s very important for us to maintain an awareness of what happened and of what is still going on there.”

The concert raised over $4,000, which will be donated to two orphanages in Sri Lanka.

“I feel very positive about the concert,” Odayar said. “Not only did it help the children, it also brought the communities together. No one had seen an Irish – Sri Lankan combination before.”

For more information on how you can help Sri Lankan children affected by the tsunami, please visit www.slcam.ca.

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