Perseveranda “Persy” So had just came back to the hotel from her field work at a UNICEF school in Jalala camp outside Peshawar where she helped implement programs to assist girls in gaining access to education, when the attack happened late in the evening – a vehicle forced its way into the hotel’s car park and exploded.
Persy was the UNICEF Pakistan Chief of Education who, in the words of her colleagues, devoted her life to lifting knowledge up and pushing ignorance down and was passionately dedicated to ensuring every child’s right to education regardles of gender, race, color or creed.
I had known and met Persy on two or three occasions of dinner invite at her house when she was newly posted here in Cambodia in 2007, after which she moved to Pakistan. She was the sister of Nori whom I had worked with at Concern Cambodia from 2000 to 2002. (After our stints at Concern, Nori moved to Plan International Cambodia until 2008 and I found myself doing community development work for a conservation NGO to this day.) During those times when Nori, who was a programme manager and my immediate boss, would visit and monitor our microfinance project in Pursat province, our conversations would naturally fall into the orbit of family life- the health of our aging parents, bits and pieces about our siblings and slew of nephews and nieces who were growing up fast and marking their own identities with individual quirks and interests to our amusement. And Nori would mention here and there about her elder sister Persy, at the time working with UNICEF in Indonesia. When I finally met her in person in Phnom Penh I was really impressed with her unassuming ways despite her stature and with her dedication to her work. And when she was already in Islamabad she was so kind as to respond to my email to help me out by providing me some information and link to international organizations that were recruiting staff; this was during the time when I thought I was already leaving Cambodia.
Koh Kong, Cambodia