Him Sotea, general manager of the Chi Kraeng Healthcare Centre.
THE opening of the Chi Kraeng Health Centre last Friday marked the latest in a series of projects by Swiss sculptor Sala Enrico to raise the living standards in Siem Reap. Enrico first visited the province in 1994 and, while the town has changed dramatically since then, many villagers in rural areas still lack access to basic health care.
Him Sotea, general manager of the health centre, told the Post that the centre would "welcome all people, not just people who live in the district".
Enrico gathered the funding for the construction of the hospital and hopes in the future to add a pool to ensure the hospital has a supply of fresh water.
Since 1994, Enrico has helped to build 915 water pits, 18 schools, two libraries, two health centres, and has distributed several tonnes of rice to poor villagers.
Enrico was motivated to build hospitals in Cambodia after seeing the Po Pale region of Siem Reap. "We decided to build the first health care centre in Dam Nak Slangn, if we could collect sufficient funds," he said.
"About 10,000 people from 10 villages would be referred to this centre. When I came back to Ticino in May 2005, I had in my pocket a project and the relative budget for its realisation," he said.
"The project included three hospital blocks: a main block, a block for tuberculosis patients and a block with rooms for the health care professionals, plus four toilets."
Now that Chi Kraeng hospital is complete, Enrico wants to construct a school called Por Raksmey Sangkum.
Providing rural schools with adequate infrastructure is another of Enrico's longstanding desires, resulting from a visit to a rather rudimentary school.
"We went one morning to the village of Kork Bang to inspect a region where we were planning to build around 20 water pits. Suddenly, in the centre of the village, I found myself in front of a school class in the middle of a lesson," he said .
"The school had no building. The children were under the trees with their desks, blackboard and the photo of the King and the Queen in the background. I said to myself, ‘How nice!' but then thought ‘What happens when it rains?'"
"Without hesitation I asked the village chief, who was standing in front of me, to write an official authorisation to build a real school. He did not hesitate for one second and I had the document in my hands."