Kim Phuc illuminated the room with peace and admiration as she demonstrated the power of humanity at this year’s final Children First Speaker Series event on Friday, April 29th, 2016. The event, Kim’s Story: Healing Children of War, revealed how Kim achieved the transformative power of forgiveness to save herself from the dark atrocities of war in order to create a bright and hopeful future.
In 1972, Kim was severely burned by napalm during the Vietnam War. Nick Ut’s photograph captures Kim’s unimaginable agony and terror as she is running away from her bombed village 44 years ago. Today, Kim radiates peace as she shares her story and spreads the power of hope and optimism. Although Kim experienced true suffering at an early age, she has been able to find compassion and forgiveness in the world. Her ability to survive one of the worst atrocities and her eagerness to give back to the community is an uplifting and inspiring message of the power of humanity.
Kim described her journey from anger to forgiveness as the following: “My heart was like a full cup of coffee, black with hatred and anger. I worked on pouring some of that anger out, but the cup would just refill itself. Eventually, the cup became empty of anger and hatred. Today, my cup is full of light, wisdom, compassion, and love. Love is the way to a good future.”
Kim shared a beautiful photographic representation of her journey from a life of suffering to a future of hope and love. The creation features Anne Bayin’s photograph of Kim and her newborn son, Thomas, taken in 1995, as well as Nick Ut’s iconic photograph of Kim running after being burned, taken in 1972. Under the two photographs is written “We cannot change history, but with love we can heal the future”. Although Kim will always wear her scars, the war didn’t kill her life and it didn’t kill her future. In the photograph, she whispers to her son to have hope for a bright and hopeful future. To view Anne Bayin’s and Nick Ut’s photographs, visit http://annebayin.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/kim-phuc-2.jpg.
Kim’s story reminds us that the power of love and forgiveness can go a long way. If she is capable of healing from war, there is hope for the many children affected by war today.
Kim’s experience as a child affected by war is unfortunately not unique. A staggering 1 in 10 of he world’s children – or more than 230 million – currently live in areas affected by armed conflict. During times of crisis, UNICEF works tirelessly to protect and reunite children separated from their families, to provide emergency education, medical treatment, psychosocial support, and much more.
Written by Emmanuelle Plucker, U.S. Fund for UNICEF Development Intern