Gulf Today

My friend who was killed in Gaza was a gift to the world

- Nate Mook, The Indepenede­nt

Ifirst met Zomi Frankcom in 2018 in Guatemala. She was visiting the country when the Fuego volcano erupted, killing hundreds and displacing thousands. She heard about World Central Kitchen’s relief operation in Antigua and just showed up to help and volunteer. I still remember she had this huge smile, big laugh and effervesce­nt personalit­y. Zomi had a light that filled the room whenever she walked in. She jumped in making sandwiches, chopping vegetables, and delivering meals to families. Whatever was needed. And so from volunteeri­ng while on vacation, Zomi became one of the earliest employees at World Central Kitchen and quickly became like family. We used to have this saying that “we lead with empathy” — that really was Zomi.

The news of her death in Gaza — the killing of seven members of the World Central Kitchen team in an apparent Israeli airstrike — is devastatin­g for their families, friends and the world. I know several of them, although their identities have not yet been made public. It is unfathomab­le that they are not with us any more. They were all truly dedicated to their work, trying to do what they could in the most desperate and dangerous of situations.

Zomi, who has been named by the Australian prime minister, deeply cared for the people she was serving, not to just give them aid, but listened to them, was present with them and held their hands. I remember ater category 5 Hurricane Michael in Florida in October 2018, we were delivering food to communitie­s that were badly hit. There was a woman who barely survived. She was living in a mobile home park, and had escaped death by hiding under her bed. Zomi brought the woman her first meal in a couple of days when we were able to get there. She didn’t just hand out the food, but she sat down with her, comforted her, and listened to this woman’s story. She just enveloped the people she was helping with love. Everyone adored her.

She was a dedicated and hard worker and would do anything to help. She was the first person to jump on a plane and go to the most difficult and trying disaster in the world at a moment’s notice. From a volcano in Guatemala to hurricanes in the US, Zomi worked around the world to be there for those in need — from Indonesia to the Bahamas, from Tijuana to Haiti.

In 2020, she flew out to Australia to help during the wildfires and then immediatel­y pivoted to support the most desperate during the Covid pandemic back in the US. She went to the Navajo Nation — the reservatio­n of Native American people in Arizona which, at the time, was suffering from one of the highest Covid death rates in the world. There, she built a 100 per cent Navajo-led team, and saved lives geting food to families who were completely cut off.

She led operations during the refugee and hunger crisis in Venezuela in 2019, supporting hospitals and schools. She braved the Covid Delta surge in India to deliver hundreds of thousands of meals to hospitals. She welcomed Ukrainian refugees leading WCK’S efforts in Poland in 2022. Zomi could inspire and motivate hundreds of volunteers — from delivering food on the front lines, to building relationsh­ips with the affected community. It was incredible to see. I last spoke to her a few weeks ago while she was in Jordan, coordinati­ng air drops of aid over northern Gaza. She spoke about traveling to Cairo and beyond; we planned to catch up. I am not surprised that she went into Gaza to work on the unfolding famine. She was someone you could rely on to drop into any situation. She was deeply loved by all.

It is really hard to even comprehend that she is no longer with us, that the team of seven World Central Kitchen heroes were lost. They were there to do the most important work at the most difficult time. Knowing Zomi was a git, and those memories will forever remain. When others were facing the darkest of moments, Zomi was a shining light of comfort — and the world is a dimmer place without her. Nate Mook is the former CEO of World Central Kitchen

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