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Communities reach out to tsunami victims

Artists, musicians, businesses contributing to Friday fundraiser at conference centre



The communities of Whistler and Pemberton are coming together to reach out to the people of tsunami-ravaged South Asia.

On Friday a fundraiser will be held at the Telus Conference Centre by both communities to raise funds for relief efforts, with all the proceeds being funnelled through the Red Cross.

"We just hope we are successful and raise a lot of money," said Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner recalling how the help of strangers made such a difference when the Pemberton area was flooded in October 2003.

"We all just want to help someone in any way we can," she said. "And while we can’t say our flood was anything like the scale of this I can’t help but go back to how people helped us."

That same sentiment is driving a push by Squamish Councillor Jeff Dawson, who is organizing the adoption of a South Asian village by the community. He said the scale of the devastation caused by the Boxing Day tsunami, which is estimated to have killed 155,000 people, has made it difficult for most people to figure out a way to help.

"I looked at this and I thought how do you begin to solve something like this, it is just massive in its scope," said Dawson. "You know what you do is that you break a big problem into a series of small workable solutions."

Dawson’s workable solution was to adopt a village.

"What really hit us about this is that this is something that every town in North America, in fact the world, could do. If every town adopted a village this is solvable, just one piece at a time."

He has received hundreds of phone calls and e-mails of support and a community meeting was to be held yesterday to figure out how to get the plan off the ground.

Dawson plans to work through official agencies and has already been in touch to see how it might come together. He knows it won’t be easy, but said Dawson: "We are going to make it possible.

"We are under no illusion that this is a short term project. Many of us hope to make it a life-long commitment. It is a minimum of two to five years. You can rebuild a community easily.

"This is a long-term journey. There are folks who will be with us for the entire journey and others will come and go on the journey."

For some months now Whistler has been considering pairing up with a sister city in South Asia after local businessman Jay Wahono, of the Java Café and Taman Sari Royal Heritage Spa suggested it. Wahono’s extended family lives mostly in and around Jakarta.