Apr 102005
Authors: Caroline Welch

The tsunami death toll is up to 265,000 and 40,000 are still missing – the 14 nations affected by the worst tsunami in history are trying to rebuild and regain what was lost, but they are not doing it alone.

In an effort to help tsunami victims, CSU and the Fort Collins community came together Saturday at the Lory Student Center Theatre for "Asia Fantasia," an event to raise money and awareness for those tarnished by the international tragedy.

Mandar Sunthankar, vice-chair for the event and a business owner in Fort Collins, has family in Bombay and said that, even though his family was not directly affected by the tsunami, he still felt the need to help.

"We are all affected by this international disaster and it hasn't ended yet," Sunthankar said. "There is a significant population of people whose families were affected (by the tsunami) living in Fort Collins."

Sreedevi Bringi, a former CSU professor and the publicity coordinator for the benefit, said her family missed the tsunami by an hour because they took their daily beach walk one hour early. She said she was very excited that the event brought in $7,000 to help those not as lucky as her family.

"The vision we had was to bring community together in Fort Collins is like a dream come true," Bringi said. "This money will go a long way. It is truly remarkable."

Ticket sales benefited UNICEF, and donations made at tables set up in the Sunken Lounge went directly to Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India via specific organizations, said Dhania Iman, president of the Indonesian Student Association.

"We want to raise awareness for what is going on around the world and our culture," said Iman, a graduate student in technical journalism. "We want to increase awareness of our traditional arts and create diversity programs on campus."

One table set up for the event was inspired by the work of Amma, a humanitarian and spiritual leader from India who has dedicated her tsunami efforts to orphaned children.

Known as "Ma" to her followers, Amma is a divine mother figure whose hugs are known for their healing power, said Laura Moore who works in advertising at the Coloradoan.

"People stand in line for hours to get a hug from her," Moore said. "30,000 people have stood in line for three days to receive a hug."

According to Moore, Ma stayed the full three days until everyone who waited received a hug.

Children from Fort Collins held candles while Dr. Lena Sunthankar sang a prayer to begin the program, and audience members and performers joined together in a moment of silence to remember victims halfway around the world.

"This is a journey into Asia and a merging of east and west," said Grace Marie, leader of Dances for Universal Peace, in her introduction.

The program included a performance called "Synergy" by Manick Sorcar's Production Group, which included special effects, lasers, high-energy music and dancing.

The diverse group travels worldwide to do non-profit benefit shows like Asia Fantasia, and includes anyone who can dance, said performer, Rekha Nalithan, a Fairview High School student who has been with the group for more than five years.

"It's a huge commitment," Nalithan said. "But it gives you a lot of satisfaction. It's new, people enjoy it and it's for a good cause."

Nikita Patel, a Niwot High School sophomore, said she enjoyed the performance.

"They did a really nice job with choreography," Patel said. "The lighting looked really good."

Other entertainment events included a classical solo dance from India by Poudre High School IB Girls, a slide show of tsunami rehabilitation, impromptu music by Indo-American Jazz Fusion Ensemble, Indonesian Folk Songs and an Indonesian Martial Arts demonstration.

Audience members also learned welcome sayings in Arabic, Indonesian, Sinhalese and Tamil – languages spoken by those who were most impacted by the tsunami.

More than 50 items were sold in silent and live auctions and included everything from Taj Mahal restaurant gift certificates worth $20 to homemade meals worth $220 to Jin Shin Jyutsu (Ancient Japanese Healing Art) worth $55 and traditional art, worth up to $250. An autographed picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger was also included, worth $200.

"We're excited," vice-chair Sunthankar said. "I want to acknowledge all the work and effort that is coming to fruit (in this event). I am really pleased with how the Fort Collins community has supported us."

Sen. Ken Salazar sent his "sincere respect and appreciation" to participants in a letter saying he "appreciated the hard work and effort to coordinate the extra-ordinary benefit show."

The event included more than 100 volunteers from CSU and the Fort Collins Community, the Office of International Programs at CSU, the India Association of Northern Colorado and students and faculty from India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

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