Syrian refugee Maya Ghazal was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency in 2021 after 4 years of committed support.
In 2015, Maya Ghazal fled Damascus and aged 16 started a new life in the UK under a family reunification scheme. Unable to speak the language she taught herself English and overcame numerous barriers to secure a place in school to restart her interrupted studies. Through a combination of hard work and tenacity she secured at place at university and in 2022 graduated with a degree in Aviation Engineering and Pilot Studies. She now works as Research Engineer.
First female Syrian refugee pilot
At the age of 21, Maya fulfilled her dream of becoming the first female Syrian refugee pilot and has her sights set on one day progressing from a private pilot licence to becoming a commercial airline pilot. Through sharing her own inspiring story Maya advocates for refugee inclusion, access to education and job opportunities, and counters negative stereotyping of refugees. In 2019 Maya was a co-sponsor of the education session at the first ever Global Refugee Forum and in In 2022 Maya teamed up with UNHCR Supporters Toto and Susie Wolff to raise awareness of UNHCR’s education report.
A powerful advocate for refugees
Maya has delivered inspiring speeches across the world to audiences of school children to statespeople, private sector to royalty, including at the WE Day youth empowerment forum, the Global Social Forum on Education, the Palace of Westminster, the Global Women’s Forum, the WISE Summit and the United Nations. In 2019 Maya gave a powerfully inspiring speech at TEDxPalaisDesNationsWomen in which she smashed stereotypes and offered five solutions to better understanding refugees and why we should invest in their limitless potential.
In 2022 Maya travelled to Jordan with UNHCR to meet fellow Syrian refugees and hear about the extreme challenges they face in winter when temperatures plummet, already difficult living conditions become even harder, and they are forced to make impossibly tough decisions about how to spend the limited cash assistance UNHCR is able to provide.
Maya has supported a wide range of UNHCR’s private sector partnerships and has undertaken extensive media interviews, written articles, been involved in various social media initiatives, and key global moments including cooking up a storm with fellow UNHCR supporter Stanley Tucci for Buzzfeed's 'Proper Tasty' for World Refugee Day 2019.