Holly's song brings hope

9th September 2005 at 01:00
College administrator Holly Burton was inspired when she saw the Bring Back The Smiles slogan of the tsunami-devasted Hagalla college in Sri Lanka.

Within 24 hours she had used it to write a song for the victims of the disaster which struck nine months ago.

Now it has been recorded on CD by students and staff at Stockport college where she works, and will be the basis of a series of fundraising concerts for the Sri Lankan school.

Hagalla college became the focus for Stockport college's fundraising after its director of external relations, Alan Davidge, began making contacts in Sri Lanka to recruit students.

Just days after speaking to agents in Sri Lanka, the tsunami devastated the coastline of southern Asia, killing more than 265,000 people.

Mr Davidge went to the country's capital, Colombo, in March where he saw how thriving fishing communities had been reduced to living in refugee camps. A monk was trying to build a boatyard to replace the destroyed fishing boats, and the college gave tools, as well as cash, to the project.

Mr Davidge also saw the devastation at Hagalla college, where more than 500 of the 1,200 pupils and 20 of their teachers were living in refugee camps.

Hagalla's principal died in the Boxing Day tsunami. Her office, just a few metres from the coast, was destroyed. Classrooms disappeared under the force of the waves and the library was flattened.

Rebuilding the library became the aim of Stockport college's fundraising efforts, which have so far realised pound;3,000.

Mr Davidge said they wanted support for Sri Lanka to be a part of their students' broader education, and he hoped they would keep up pen-pal correspondence with their counterparts on the other side of the world.

"We think it will help our students to learn about what it's like to suffer in this way. Students were some of the first to come forward to help," he said.

The song recorded by Mrs Burton, who is originally from Seattle and counts Joni Mitchell among her influences as a a singer-songwriter, begins by describing the devastation wrought by the tsunami.

But the chorus strikes a different note. The words are:

"Life is bringing back the smiles, love is bringing back the smiles, time is bringing back the smiles."

Mrs Burton said that despite the tragedy, some things had improved. in Sri Lanka.

"A lake which had been like a swamp before the tsunami has turned blue and there are fish in it - it turned into this beautiful lake as a result.

"If you live on an island, you have to make friends with the sea again."

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