The SCMP Homes for Hope gala dinner was held last night to raise awareness of the project and help Sichuan earthquake victims rebuild their homes and lives. Guests at the Island Shangri-La included Hong Kong SAR Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, SCMP Group chairman David Pang Ding-jung, South China Morning Post editor C.K. Lau, SCMP Group managing director and chief executive Kuok Hui Kwong, executive director of Sino Group Daryl Ng Win-kong, and Sotheby's chief executive Kevin Ching Sau-hong. With Sichuan music playing in the background, guests saw a photo wall evoking memories of the disaster on May 12 last year. Some pictures showed the scene after the earthquake. Other photos showed the reconstruction of homes and the rebuilding of lives in Sichuan. The masters of ceremonies at the event were Karen Koh and Christopher Graves. Ms Koh is an experienced TV presenter who previously worked for CNN International and Reuters TV. Mr Graves is the president and chief executive (Asia-Pacific) of Ogilvy Public Relations. He is also a public speaker and moderator who has appeared at events such as the Clinton Global Initiative. The event started with an officiating ceremony conducted by special guests Mr Tsang, Dr Pang, Ms Kuok, Mr Lau and Kuok Khoon Hua, an assistant to the group chairman of Kerry Group. Mr Tsang and Dr Pang used a hammer to nail the SCMP Homes for Hope sign to a backdrop of a picture of a house to start the gala dinner. The house represented the homes that are being rebuilt in the two areas hit hardest by the earthquake, Qingquan and Jiu Zhai Gou. Diocesan Girls' School started the entertainment by giving a 10-minute musical performance. Five pieces of Chinese music were played by students using the yangqin, erhu, gaohu and cello. The names of the pieces were Jasmine, Autumn Moon at Xihu, Purple Bamboo, Embroidered Purse and Autumn Moon Among Clouds. This was not the first time that Diocesan Girls' School had helped to raise money for Sichuan victims. The school organised a donation involving all students immediately after the earthquake. Part of the money raised by the school's annual mini-bazaar last year was donated to the rebuilding in Sichuan. Other donation programmes included schools in Hong Kong encouraging their students to help raise money for the project by asking students to donate HK$2 pocket money last month. In return, students received a Homes for Hope bookmark to recognise the difference they have made. More than HK$145,000 was raised by the schools. TWGHs Lee Ching Dea Memorial College was named as the 'top fund-raiser school' after donating HK$20,669 to the project. Another musical performance was a percussion ensemble by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra. The Sichuan folk song they played was called The Love Song of Kangding, arranged by Chew Hee-chiat. Kangding used to be a watering place for travellers on the ancient Silk Road in southwest China, so it became a crossroads for different cultures and nationalities. The song represents the fusion of cultures as much as its place of origin. The composer of this music is unknown, but over time the piece was refined to the version of today. The song has been linked to legends, love stories, and the romanticism of the snow-capped highlands. Singer Coco Lee entertained guests with a touching performance. Adding a bit of action to the night, Chin Art, a group of graduates from the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, performed a folk dance, Qiao Hua Dan, which means a beautiful female opera performer. The piece contained some elements of the Sichuan opera. 'This award-winning dance is light-hearted and cheerful, which represents the new generation of Sichuan,' said Icy Lam, a member of Chin Art. Zheng Danyi, a poet originally from Sichuan, was invited to recite a poem that he wrote specially for the occasion. The poem, called But tonight I should even refuse..., relates to the sadness and loneliness of earthquake victims who 'cannot overcome the loneliness under the stars' after losing family members in the earthquake. It also encouraged the audience to do what they can to help the victims. Zheng had earlier taken the initiative to help Sichuan victims. On May 25 last year, 13 days after the earthquake struck, he held a poetry reading in Kubrick Bookstore to help Oxfam Hong Kong's earthquake response. He also donated all proceeds from sales of his poetry book Wings of Summer and a poem he wrote in calligraphy that was sold for HK$30,000. Zheng also wrote a poem called In Lieu of Consolation in response to the earthquake and read in on TV and at a poetry recital. Although Hong Kong is not his hometown, Zheng is very proud of this city because it has 'a lot of kind people who are trying their best to help the victims of the earthquake'. Guests were able to buy a book of Zheng's beautiful poems after the reading. Mr Ching generously donated 50 copies of Wings of Summer. The book is divided into parts entitled Sixteen Poems, Spring, Weep, Youth, Harmonica, Wings of Summer, Stupor and Northern Diary. Written originally in Chinese by Zheng, Luo Hui translated the book into English. The money raised was given towards the project. Master Wai Shui-kwan, an award-winning face-changing performer who did his apprenticeship in Sichuan theatre, also performed. Known as the 'national treasure of Hong Kong', Master Wai is able to peel off more than 50 masks in a single performance with unbelievable speed. He was also the first to perform costume-changing arts. Master Wai has performed for Premier Wen Jiabao, Mr Tsang and Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou in the past. After all the performances, lights were dimmed and a video specially produced for the evening was played. With a sombre mood, guests watched the video about the situation in Sichuan. Survivors of the earthquake were interviewed and some difficult living conditions were shown. One of the survivors Yang Fengying said her family's temporary wooden shelter would 'be eaten by worms' sooner or later. The house leaks when it rains and, when there is strong wind, the tarpaulin that covers the house is dislodged and cold wind blows into the house. The video explained that a lot of the people living in these types of conditions cannot afford to build new earthquake-resistant homes. They rely on charities to help them rebuild their homes and to provide them with basic infrastructure such as roads and electricity. To conclude the evening, there was a charity auction of five pieces of art: an oil painting called Love (from traditional), a lithograph called My Memory No. 1, a hand-printed work called Water, a bronze sculpture called Old Boat and an early Tang grey pottery standing horse. Ian McGinlay, Sotheby's director and head of client development for Asia, was the auctioneer. With 20 years of experience, he has conducted charity auctions in Asia and helped to raise US$10 million over the past five years.