IT remains one of the most haunting images of the 20th century.

The harrowing picture of children running down a road after a napalm attack on their village captured the horrors of the Vietnam war.

Kim Phuc was the naked, terrified nine-year-old girl who was pictured fleeing for her life.

The powerful image, taken almost 40 years ago, shocked and appalled the world, and played a role in the push for peace in Vietnam.

Today, Ms Phuc is a campaigner against war and bloodshed in her role as a UN Ambassador for Peace.

Yesterday, her work brought Ms Phuc to Bolton, where students had a rare opportunity to meet the “girl” in the picture.

Around 250 students from Canon Slade, Thornleigh Salesian College and Bolton School, as well as others from Chester and Withington, listened as she spoke emotionally about her personal horrors of war and her moving journey to take something positive from her experience and give hope to others.

After her village mistakenly came under attack, the young Kim was badly burnt by napalm and suffered many years of painful burn therapy.

She now travels the world as an ambassador but also helps young victims of war through her Kim Phuc Foundation.

The foundation helps to fund and run projects set up to care for and support child victims of conflicts across the globe.

This was her second visit to the UK and her first to the North West.

Ms Phuc said: “Bolton is beautiful and great. It is a privilege to talk to people here and I want to put across the message for them to live in love and to forgive.

“Young people have great responsibility to learn how to forgive and live in hope and be good people. They give me hope and I am touched to be able to speak to them.”

Now she is appealing to others to change the way they see the iconic picture, which changed attitudes to the Vietnam war.

Ms Phuc, who now lives in Canada with her husband and two children, said : “When you see the little girl running up the road you can see her calling out and crying. Don’t see her crying out in pain and fear, see her calling out for peace.”

She added: “I couldn’t fulfil my dream of being a doctor but I can help more people, like children, through what I am doing. I now go round the world and help people in a totally different way, which is so meaningful.”

Ms Phuc said that her work was to give hope to children in war-torn situations.

“If that little girl can forgive, everyone can do it. If we do that, I have so much hope that war will be much less,” she said.

Young people in the audience described her speech as inspirational, moving and empowering — with some admitting it had already impacted on their lives in some way.

Lizzie Bowcock, aged 17, said: “The talk was awe-inspiring — it made you think about your own life.

“I have studied the picture but listening to Kim here has so much more of an impact.”

Lucy Nolan, head girl of Bolton School, said: “Kim brought the war into our lives, which no textbook can do. It was emotional.”

“Her work is crucial because we are the next generation who will be able to change the way the world is.”

Ms Phuc also visited The University of Bolton and the town’s Red Cross branch.