A free cello concert is a draw card. There’s one held on Saturday nights in Siem Reap. At intervals during his concert, the famous Swiss paediatric doctor and philanthropist, Beat Richner, unashamedly tells his story of the five Cambodian Children’s Hospitals that he built and now maintains through the Kantha Bopha Foundation.
Beatcello, as he is fondly referred to, played pieces evoking raw emotion. One in particular grabbed my attention. Kol Nidre, an Aramaic prayer sung by Jews at the opening of the Day of Atonement service on the eve of Yom Kippur, transported me from an auditorium in Siem Reap back to my family roots in Eastern Europe. Totally spiritual. How did Beat know I was in the audience?
The Foundation, which finances the Children’s Hospitals, offers free medical and hospital care to all Cambodian children. Employing over 2500 local staff members who are paid at rates high enough to deter corruption, the only two expatriate staff members are Dr Richner and head pathologist, Dr. Denis Laurent. The Government offers little in the way of funding to the hospitals. Some might say that worldwide donations dissuade the Government from adopting a social responsibility towards the young of Cambodia.
From a war that was fuelled by international political interests, Dr Richner attacks the international community, in particular, the World Health Organisation, for their lack of funding to the children of Cambodia. Thousands of children owe their lives to Beat Richner, who has raised funds through his activism, music and passion for justice.
By the way, not only was I happy to donate to the Foundation, I wish Dr Richner many more years of leadership and strength to continue supporting the health of the children of this country.
There may be more to this story and I welcome further perspective.