About Saint Mary's

Honorary Degree - Kim Phuc Phan Thi

22 April, 2016

Kim Phuc Phan Thi

Kim Phuc Phan Thi is known around the world as the girl in the picture. In 1972, at the age of 9, she was immortalized in a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph that shows her screaming and running naked down a road in Trang Bang, Vietnam after having her clothing burned off by napalm. A living symbol of the atrocity of war, she is the founder of the Kim Foundation International, a nonprofit dedicated to providing funds to support the work of international organizations that provide free medical assistance to children who are victims of war and terrorism.

Ms. Phan Thi has suffered many hardships since that day in 1972, including several years of painful burn therapy, but her spirit has always remained strong. Inspired by the physicians who helped her survive, she decided to become a doctor, but her pre-medical studies in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) were interrupted in 1982 when the Vietnamese government removed her from school to act as a "national symbol of the war". Four years later, the government permitted her to continue her studies in Cuba, but health issues put and end to her plans to become a doctor.

It was in Cuba that Ms. Phan Thi met her husband, Bui Huy Toan.  On September 11, 1992, while on the way back to Havana after their honeymoon in Moscow, the couple defected to Canada during a one-hour layover in Newfoundland. They now live near Toronto with their two sons, Thomas and Stephen, and Ms. Phan Thi travels the world as a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Goodwill Ambassador for the Culture of Peace.

Kim Phuc Phan Thi has received many honours for her efforts to help children and end world conflict. She is an Honorary Member of Kingston Rotary, an Honorary Member of St. Albert Rotary, a member of the Advisory Board for the Wheelchair Foundation, an Honorary Member of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, a Member of the Advisory Board of Free Children's Foundation in Canada, and the World Children's Center in Atlanta Ga., USA. Ms. Phan Thi is also a recipient of the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal and the 2004 "Order of Ontario".

Inspired by a 1996 visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., The Kim Foundation International Foundation allows Ms. Phan Thi to give something back in return for all the help she has received. It is also a powerful way to promote peace and forgiveness.