Arts and Culture

You may not recognize the name Kim Phuc Phan but there’s a good chance you’ve seen a photograph of her taken 44 years ago in Vietnam.

She’s the 9-year-old girl seen running frantically down a highway, naked after being badly burned by napalm dropped by the South Vietnamese Air Force, which was trying to flush out enemy soldiers near her village.

In the picture, other children, including Kim’s brother and cousins, are also seen fleeing in terror.

Kim Phuc PhanNick Ut/Associated Press

The Associated Press photo by Nick Ut earned a Pulitzer Prize. Kim was first given little chance of survival, and spent more than a year in hospitals.  Now 53, the mother of two has dedicated her life to helping children in war-torn areas.

This coming week, she’ll be one of the presenters at the IdeaFestival in Louisville. I spoke with her recently, by phone, from her home in Toronto. You can listen to our conversation in the audio player above.

On seeing the famous photo of herself for the first time:

“When I was in the hospital, I didn’t see the picture. But when I came home, my dad pull my picture out and say ‘Kim, this is your picture.’ I felt so bad. I wish that picture is not taken, you know, because I’m a girl and naked and ugly…you know, my face crying. And I feel like um, embarrassed because another child or children…my brother, my cousin…they still have the clothes on.”

On her foundation and dedicating her life to helping child survivors of war:

“Our mission…we just want to focus to help children who are victims of war who are underprivileged around the world, especially for children. So we focus on building…to help them ah, building the hospital, building the schools, building the orphanage home.”

Kim Phuc Phan will present at the 2016 IdeaFestival on Thursday, Sept. 29. More information can be found here.

Rick Howlett is WFPL's Broadcast Editor and also produces feature and general assignment radio stories.