AP-A Swiss doctor fulfilled his dream to help save the lives of Cambodia's children,
as he opened with elaborate fanfare a hospital on Sept. 24 he had rebuilt from the
rubble of war.
"At home they told me it would be too difficult to do this project. They told
me you have to think of all the problems," Dr. Beat Richner told the 2,500 digni-taries,
hospital staff and flag-waving school-children gath-ered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"At last I stopped think-ing and I started to dream, and now this dream has
Head of State Prince Norodom Sihanouk presided over the reopening of the Guntha Bopha
Children's Hospital, which he built in the 1960s and named after his daughter, who
died of leukemia in 1952. It had been destroyed during the past two decades of conflict
"I am very moved," Sihanouk told Richner. "I appreciate very much
your generosity, your very good heart."
Richner, 45, worked as a pediatrician in the hospital until the Khmer Rouge seized
control of the country in 1975 and he was forced to flee.
Richner returned last December to find the former hospital staff had disappeared
and the facility had been destroyed. He was asked to help resurrect what had been
the main children's hospital in Cambodia.
He returned to Switzerland, where he is a well-known pediatrician and cellist. He
staged concerts and appealed for donations, eventually collecting U.S. $2 million
of the U.S. $15 million he needs over the next five years.
"The Swiss also had this dream and paid thousands," he said.
Richner began construction in April. He gave Sihanouk and other dignitaries a tour
of the freshly painted hospital, already filled with beds and equipment. Richner
said he expects to open the doors of the 100-bed hospital to patients on Oct. 12.
"I'm very impressed," Sihanouk told Richner. "You have done so much
for us." Sihanouk gave Richner US $500 to help with the project. To thank him,
Richner played a Johann Sebastian Bach selection that he called a song of peace.