Five years on: Mother of Stevenage doctor shot dead by the Taliban says more needs to be done to keep her memory alive

Dr Karen Woo is greeted by the doctors or the Herat Government Hospital in Afghanistan, October 2009

Dr Karen Woo is greeted by the doctors or the Herat Government Hospital in Afghanistan, October 2009. - Credit: Archant

The mother of a young aid worker killed in Afghanistan by the Taliban five years ago says more help is needed if a charity set up in her daughter’s memory is to continue its good work.

Dr Karen Woo filming in Badakhshan, Afghanistan. Nov 2009.

Dr Karen Woo filming in Badakhshan, Afghanistan. Nov 2009. - Credit: Archant

Doctor Karen Woo was shot dead on August 5, 2010, after helping hundreds of people in the war-torn country – including saving the life of a baby boy.

Working with medical charity International Assistance Mission, the 36-year-old from Brixham Close in Stevenage was part of an 11-strong team taking medical aid to villagers in July and August 2010.

Karen had written excitedly of her 120-mile round trip and, after successfully treating hundreds of people with a range of medical conditions from the minor to the life-threatening, the team stopped at a river in a remote mountainous region of Badakashan province on their return journey to the capital, Kabul.

It was there that they were ambushed by gunmen with automatic weapons and Karen was shot twice and killed –along with nine others of the mostly American team. One man survived.

Dr Karen Woo during surgery.

Dr Karen Woo during surgery. - Credit: Archant

Karen had been due to marry just days after her expected return from the country on August 20.

As her family prepared to mark the fifth anniversary of her death yesterday, her mother Lynn spoke to the Comet about her remarkable daughter.

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“Karen just felt somehow this is what she had to do,” she said.

“She had worked for Bupa and jetted off all over the world, but a lot of it was mundane – and she didn’t do mundane.”

Dr Karen Woo in the ambulance with patient, en route to aircraft in January 2010.

Dr Karen Woo in the ambulance with patient, en route to aircraft in January 2010. - Credit: Archant

Speaking about the people who killed Karen, she said: “I don’t sit there hating or resenting them. I see them as cowards.

“Shooting people who have no guns – where’s the bravery and courage in that?”

The Karen Woo Foundation was set up in the young doctor’s memory and is a grant-giving charity, focusing on supporting projects in Afghanistan which provide healthcare to communities which have little or no access to basic medical provision.

But the charity is struggling to raise the funds which it needs to continue its good work.

Karen during her childhood.

Karen during her childhood. - Credit: Archant

Lynn said: “Over the years, people have lost interest and it has become harder and harder to raise funds.

“We want to see the foundation run for another year, at least, and then we may need to rethink it.”

The charity has so far supported a wide range of projects, including sending two containers of medical supplies to Afghanistan, providing funding for an orphanage, and financially supporting a children’s home which provides care for youngsters needing medical treatment.

Lynn explained: “Children are brought from all over, needing surgery but not able to afford it.

Dr Karen Woo in Afghanistan.

Dr Karen Woo in Afghanistan. - Credit: Archant

“Teams go out and find them and their families and put them into the children’s home and then get them into hospital in Kabul.”

The foundation is preparing to send two small grants to the war-torn country to provide 40 wheelchairs for people injured due to land mines, and to support a children’s home for youngsters with learning disabilities.

“There were no big amounts of money last year,” Lynn added. “It’s dribbling in because interest has died down.”

• If you want to support the Karen Woo Foundation, visit www.karenwoofoundation.org.

You can also email contact@karenwoofoundation.org or call Philip French on 07966 018015.

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