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Some heartfelt help

When artist Paul Allen started his latest painting, Sri Lanka weighed heavy on his mind. "I wanted to create a warm place in this painting that would be inviting," Allen said. "They didn't have a safe harbor," he said of the hundreds of thousands...

When artist Paul Allen started his latest painting, Sri Lanka weighed heavy on his mind.

"I wanted to create a warm place in this painting that would be inviting," Allen said.

"They didn't have a safe harbor," he said of the hundreds of thousands dead from last year's tsunami disaster that is affecting eight Asian countries. Sri Lanka was proportionally the worst-hit nation.

When the opportunity came, Allen said it seemed appropriate to donate his latest painting, "Safe Harbor," to Sunday night's tsunami relief benefit at the Hotel Donaldson in Fargo.

With the Sri Lankan flag draped in some of the restaurant's windows, the HoDo entertained about a hundred visitors with a variety of Sri Lankan culture, including a traditional dinner and an national dance performance.

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The benefit was organized by Minnesota State University Moorhead students. "The reaction has just been huge," MSUM senior Genna Carlson said.

Carlson, a mass communications and anthropology major, is president of MSUM's Support International, a campus organization that raises funds locally and abroad.

Benefit supporter Asoka Marasinghe of Moorhead said he often thinks of his mother and sister who still live in Sri Lanka. "They live in the hills, but they are still affected by it (the tsunami)," he said.

The 56-year-old man moved to the Fargo-Moorhead area in 1981 and said he appreciated the area's reaction to the benefit.

"From a place like Fargo, for these people to respond like this it's ... a very human reaction to a human tragedy," Marasinghe said.

The benefit came with a $50 ticket price, but most people didn't have any issues with the price tag since all the money will go towards the Sri Lanka Disaster Relief.

Supporter Ellen Brisch added that she didn't have a problem with the price since she'd already donated money. "Also I knew the food would be spectacular," said Brisch who received a preview of the food from one of the organizers.

Marasinghe said he thought the night would be an eye-opener for many who attended the benefit. "It's not their fault, he said since many people don't even know the location of Sri Lanka.

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"I really hadn't learned much about Sri Lankan history (previous to the benefit)," said Brisch, a biology associate professor at MSUM. "It's has a really rich history."

"My heart really goes out to them," said Brisch who has known many Sri Lankan students through her classes. "They work really hard. They support each other and I want to support them."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Brett Gilbertson at (701) 241-5509

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