Beat Richtner is a Swiss pediatrician, busy raising money for a Cambodian children's hospital. He gives talks about Cambodia, tells Cambodian stories, and accompanies it all by playing his cello. Dr. Richtner travels around the world, raising money for the Tantha Bopha hospital in Phnom Penh.
Richtner worked in this hospital in the years 1974 and 1975 as a young Red Cross volunteer. The hospital had been built in 1962 by Prince Sihanouk. The hospital is named in honor of the Prince's daughter, Tantha Bopha, who died of leukemia. Dr. Richter was actually working there when the Khmer Rouge entered the town, and everyone had to leave. He was on the last plane out.
When he returned to Switzerland, Richter continued his work at the Children's Hospital in Zurich. During his years there, he constantly carried in his pocket the key to the Tantha Bopha hospital, and never forgot the great need of the children in that underpriviledged country.
Dr. Richter returned to Cambodia as a tourist in 1991, and visited all the hospitals. He said in an interview, "I can say it was a catastrophe. The health care, the medical care is much worse than it was in '74, '75. The hospitals are in a bad condition - no water, no electricity. And people have to pay to enter the hospital. It's very difficult. And they are too poor to pay. And the government and the medical doctors asks me to restore this children's hospital, Tantha Bopha hospital. And then I thought, maybe it's a chance to do anything again for Cambodia."
In Switzerland, the people know Dr. Richter as "Beato Cello." His first name is "Beat," and they stick the "cello" on as his last name, and make it rhyme: "Beato Cello!" When a major newspaper wanted to do a story on him as a cellist, he explained the Cambodia situation to them, and they decided instead to do a story on his desire to return to Cambodia to restore the hospital. The newspaper helped Dr. Richter start a fund-raising drive, and they have collected over six million dollars, so far. Dr. Richter says he needs nine million to really do the job right. He said, " We spent already $4 million U.S. And with this money we restored the hospital and we treated already 150,000 outpatients. And we treated already 8,500 inpatients." Medical attention at the hospital is now free, and there are over 230 Cambodians working at the hospital.
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CopyrightęMarshall C. St. John, 1996