Phan Thị Kim Phúc – the Girl in the Picture, 43 years on

I had the great pleasure of meeting Phan Thị Kim Phúc recently, the inspiring woman in one of the most harrowing, moving photos in history.

Kim Phúc was the young child who became known as the Girl in the Picture after photographer Nick Ut took a photo of her running naked away from a dropped napalm bomb in Vietnam.

Image from Virgin.com

She has grown into a remarkable woman, and we were delighted that she came to visit us on Moskito Island. It was fascinating hearing how she has rebuilt her life and gone on to help many others though her Foundation and her example.

On June 8th 1972, South Vietnamese planes dropped a napalm bomb on Trang Bang, forcing Kim Phúc, other civilians and soldiers to flee the Caodai Temple and run for their lives along the dirt road. Two of her cousins and two other villagers were killed.

Kim Phúc tore off her burning clothes as she ran but still suffered incredibly bad burns, the scars of which she still has today. In the picture, she is screaming, “too hot, too hot" as she runs. Nick Ut took the injured children to hospital, where the doctors believed Kim Phúc would not survive. After 17 surgical procedures, she made it home alive.

Image from Virgin.com

As she recovered, Kim Phúc decided she wanted to become a doctor to help other people, and studied medicine at university. But then she was taken away from her studies to be used as a propaganda symbol by the Vietnamese government. She eventually made her way to Cuba, where she continued studying and met her future husband Bui Huy Toan. Now, she is a Canadian citizen, a a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, and spends her time campaigning to provide medical and psychological assistance to child victims of war.

Her story is an incredible tale of overcoming extreme adversity in order to provide hope for others. She’s an inspiration to us all. Head over to the KIM Foundation International to find out more about their work. 

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