“Napalm is the most terrible pain you can imagine,” said Kim Phúc of the man-made incendiary used prevalently during the Vietnam War. Phúc knows of what she speaks. In 1972, a 9-year-old Phúc (pronounced “fuke,” as in “Luke”) was critically burned by the chemical when her village, Trang Bang, was mistakenly bombed by the South Vietnamese Air Force. AP photographer Nick Út was there and snapped the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo “The Girl in the Picture” of a naked Phúc, running down a road, screaming, trying to escape the fireball. She had torn off her burning clothes. Phúc survived despite her life-threatening injuries.
Now a Canadian citizen, Phúc has spent her adulthood aiding other child victims of war through her nonprofit, the Kim Foundation International (kimfoundation.com), which helps “heal the wounds suffered by innocent children” in strife-ridden countries and “restore hope and happiness to their lives, by providing much-needed medical and psychological assistance.” She is also an international speaker and a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for a Culture of Peace.
Santa Barbarans have the chance to hear Phúc’s story firsthand Thursday, January 19, when the international speaker comes to town for the event 40 Years of Forgiveness: A Conversation with Kim Phúc. The discussion will also include historical photos and clips from the 1996 documentary Kim’s Story: The Road from Vietnam. “Forgiveness made me free from hatred,” said Phúc. “I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days, but my heart is cleansed. Napalm is very powerful, but faith, forgiveness, and love are much more powerful.”
The evening is a benefit for the Kim Foundation and the Friendship Fund (friendship-fund.org), which provides scholarships for students to learn and volunteer abroad with Friendship Tours World Travel, “educational tour and community-service program” for U.S. students and teachers in the countries of our former foes.
Kim Phúc will discuss 40 Years of Forgiveness on Thursday, January 19, at 7 p.m. at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.). The event will be followed by a private reception with Phúc. For tickets, call (805) 963-0761 or visit lobero.com.