Last days at Kampot with Chinese New Year

Dear All,

I am writing this last part already from home but it has to be added to the Blog. The last week in Kampot was marked, as I told you, by preparations to please the ancestors for the Chinese New Year.

In our hotel, where the relatives of the owners were expected, I think the preparations were also partly meant to impress the living family. And on the day before, 6 February, they all arrived from lunch to the evening, including a crowd of young grand-children. We had cleared our terrace because it gave access to the buffet display. When I left our room I saw them working on it and was very impressed; the owners allowed me to take a photograph (in the bucket).

Not only the family but also we were very kindly invited to a special New Year’s banana roll for breakfast, a luncheon and evening meal. We were glad that the dogs gathered around us as we were not used anymore to eat so much in the heat including tough meat.

Crackers and fireworks sounded deep into the night.

On New Years Day, a special band arrived with a masked man leading a dragon. They danced around the yard and went into each of the buildings on the compound to secure good luck and wealth. On each of the hotel buildings the dragon found an envelope fastened high above the door and he had to grab for it.

The days in Kampot had been filled with small outings, a bicycle- and a river-trip and we also had much more time than usually with nothing much planned to do. While I put messages on the Blog, Klaus sat in the Epic Arts Café (www.epicarts.org.uk) and enjoyed the company of deaf and mute youngsters with sparkling, happy eyes. This is an amazing place created by an English NGO: two English/Irish women run together with Khmers courses for the deaf to learn sign language, to be a waitress, to make milk shakes etc. The Irish woman gives also dance classes upstairs: about 40 youngsters stand opposite each other in two groups. The teacher shows a set of dance movements and first one group and then both execute them: the music comes from a laptop and the wooden floor of the room vibrates to the rhythm. The youngsters work with beaming faces. They have also professional dance/drama performances with disabled young people.

Downstairs a group plays games and the second English woman makes a video about them. At the counter we find free leaflets and booklets for visitors, a newsletter inviting to join voluntary groups in Kampot and what to do apart from site seeing, such as:

* joining interactive conversational English or French classes
* learning basic Khmer language
* helping to fund disadvantaged children’s groups
* visiting the traditional Music school (was closed at the time) – and so on.
* Rural enterprise centre
* Helping in the child development centre
* Recycled plastic bag product development project (!!!) What an ingenious plan.

There was also a leaflet “Stay another day”: 18 pages of projects and initiatives throughout the country. www.stay-another-day.org.

But the most overwhelming of all projects we learned about last minute when waiting for the bus to take us to Phnom Pengh. Someone had left a copy of a report at the hotel counter: the Swiss paediatrician Dr Beat Richner, with hospitals at Seam Reap and Phnom Pengh, informs and impeaches “The passive genocide of Cambodia’s children, an appeal for change in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) and other organizations’ policy and strategy poor medicine for poor people in poor countries.” There is a lot to find about him in Google, he is a most amazing person.  

Beat Richner

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

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Dr. Beat Richner (born March 13, 1947) is a Swiss pediatrician, cellist (Beatocello), and founder of children's hospitals in Cambodia.
Richner worked at the
Kantha Bopha Children's Hospital in Phnom Penh in 1974 and 1975. When the Khmer Rouge overran Cambodia, he was forced to return to Switzerland.
In
1991, Richner returned to Cambodia and saw the devastation that had taken place during his absence. He was asked to re-open the children's hospital by the King.
He has opened four children's hospitals in Cambodia, Kantha Bopha I and II in Phnom Penh and Jayavarman VII in
Siem Reap. Kantha Bopha IV was opened in Phnom Penh in December 2005. A 5th hospital is currently being constructed (also in Phnom Penh).
Beatocello performs free concerts at the Jayavarman VII hospital in Siem Reap on Friday and Saturday nights. The evenings include songs, played on his cello, and talks on the health crisis in Cambodia. He asks the young tourists for blood, the older tourists for money, and the ones in between for both.
Richner and his work in Cambodia have been the subject of five
documentary films by Georges Gachot: Bach at the Pagoda (1997), And the Beat Goes On (1999), Depardieu goes for Beatocello (2002), and Money or Blood (2004). In 2006, the documentary "Dr Beat and The Passive Genocide of Children" by Australian film maker Janine Hosking was produced with the trailer viewable at http://www.drbeat.com.au.
The Kantha Bopha hospitals treat 1 million children free of charge. Approx 100,000 seriously ill children are admitted. Japanese encephalitis, malaria, dengue fever and typhoid are common, often exacerbated by the presence of TB. TB is the number one killer. Mortality rate is an astonishly low 1%.
Kantha Bopha has 1900 staff of which only Richner and the head pathologist Dr Denis Laurent are foreigners. Hundreds of medical students have graduated from the Jayavarman VII in Siem Reap.
Dr Richner claims that over 80% of all paediatric health care in Cambodia is provided by his hospitals.
The hospitals are primarily funded by donations from individuals in Switzerland, where Richner is somewhat of an icon. Operational expense in 2006 was in the order of $17mill USD.
Richner has waged war on the large AID agencies claiming that their policies of poor health care for poor people in poor countries is not only immoral but illogical.
Richner was named "Swiss of the Year" in
2003.

Works

We would have loved to visit one of his concerts and the hospital when we were in Siem Reap – helas, we learned too late about it. If you are interested, I have made a PDF copy of his report easy to attach to an e-mail in either German or English.

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21.2.08 18:40

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