Inside life of Zomi Frankcom killed by Israeli drone attack

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Her phone had been switched off overnight but when she turned it on the next morning, the message that flashed up shook her to the core.

“It was from a World Central Kitchen (WCK) colleague,” Aliyah said. “He said that he had some very bad news and to please be strong. Then he said Zomi had passed away in Gaza.”

“I read the message over and over again. It was so unreal.”

After reading the message several times, Aliyah immediately went online and started searching for any information she could find. By this time, reports that Frankcom and six other World Central Kitchen staffers had been killed in an Israeli drone attack were all over the news, confirming Aliyah’s worst fears.

The staffers, including Australian Frankcom, Palestinian driver Saif Issam Abu Taha, Britons John Chapman, James Henderson, and James Kirby, dual American-Canadian Jacob Flickinger, and Polish national Damian Sobol, had been travelling in a three car convoy along a route south of Deir al-Balah in Gaza that had been co-ordinated with and approved by the Israel Defense Forces.

World Central Kitchen is a US-based non-profit organisation which has a mission statement to provide meals to those in need during times of conflict or as a result of disasters. The charity said that it had provided 32 million meals to Gaza as of March this year.

In a statement on Tuesday, the CEO of World Central Kitchen, Erin Gore, robustly condemned the drone strike, calling it “[ …] not only an attack against WCK, [but] an attack on humanitarian organisations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war.”

Aliyah said that she had felt “shocked and sad” since Tuesday.

“Zomi was one of the kindest. She was so caring,” she said.

Aliyah told that she first met Frankcom in 2023 when she applied to work at World Central Kitchen and Frankcom, who was based in the Bangkok office as the senior manager for Asia operations at World Central Kitchen, was part of a panel of staff who interviewed her for the job.

Aliyah said that this was when she first realised how kind and gentle Frankcom was, as she immediately put her at ease and made her feel comfortable.

“She had such a soft voice,” Aliyah recalled.

Once Aliyah had secured the job, her first role with Frankcom was when they were both deployed to Turkey in February 2023 after a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and neighbouring Syria, killing over 60,000 people.

Despite the horrific conditions on the ground, Aliyah said that Frankcom was always in good spirits. “She was always smiling, even when she was talking. She always had a smile on her face, she smiled every day,” Aliyah said.

“She was also so full of patience and cared so much about her team.”

Part of the team in Turkey, in addition to Aliyah, was Polish national Damian who died alongside Frankcom in Gaza. Aliyah said that they did not work together closely at WCK, and that she only spoke to him once when they were in Turkey, but that they had had a good conversation when they had provided meals for families in the city of Elbistan.

“We spoke for about an hour when we broke fast [during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan] with local families there,” she said.

The last time Aliyah spoke to Frankcom was at the end of last year before Frankcom went to Gaza, and Aliyah asked if she would be able to take some time off due to a personal issue.

Aliyah had been worried that the request would be denied and that Frankcom would insist that she immediately return to work, but instead she was fully supportive.

“Zomi sent her best wishes to me and my family,” she said.

Aliyah said it will be devastating to work without Frankcom and that she would miss the sparkle that she brought to the work environment.

“She was always so positive as a person and her smile always lit up everything around her,” Aliyah said.

“I will never forget how she smiled so often and so brightly.”

*Aliyah is a pseudonym