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Maya Ghazal

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About Maya

Former Syrian refugee Maya Ghazal was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency , in 2021 after four years of committed support.  

In 2015, Maya fled Damascus and, at age 16, began 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 hard work and tenacity, she secured a place at university and, in 2022, graduated with a degree in Aviation Engineering and Pilot Studies. Maya is currently training to become a commercial pilot, hoping to get her ‘wings’ in 2025.    


First-ever Syrian refugee pilot

At the age of 21, Maya fulfilled her dream of becoming the first female Syrian refugee pilot when she received her private pilot license. Through sharing her inspiring story, Maya advocates for refugee inclusion, access to education and job opportunities, and counters negative stereotyping of refugees. In 2022, Maya teamed up with UNHCR Supporters Toto and Susie Wolff to raise awareness of UNHCR’s education report and in 2019, she was a co-sponsor of the education session at the first-ever Global Refugee Forum. 

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What I love most about being a pilot is the fact that I can take control of my own path. [...] It's about having the sky as my limit.

Maya Ghazal



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Field visit to Jordan

In December 2022, Maya travelled to Jordan with UNHCR to meet with fellow Syrian refugees at Azraq refugee camp. While there, she met with a Syrian refugee, Marwa, an aspiring doctor or pharmacist who had recently graduated from secondary school; however, she faced many challenges in accessing her education.

Maya also heard firsthand accounts of the extreme challenges refugees face in winter when temperatures plummet, and already difficult living conditions become more burdensome. Families and individuals are forced to make impossibly tough decisions about spending the limited cash assistance UNHCR can provide.

Maya recorded messages in Jordan that have proved invaluable to UNHCR’s 23/24 Winter campaign, helping to raise funds to support families experiencing many of the same challenges as those Maya met in Jordan. 


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A powerful advocate for refugees 

Maya’s support for UNHCR extends beyond field visits; she has shared her personal story to destigmatize refugee issues and highlight the importance of refugee inclusion, particularly within higher-level education. This includes the WE Day youth empowerment forum, the Global Social Forum on Education, the Global Women’s Forum, and the Wise Summit.

In 2019, Maya moved the audience at TEDxPalaisDesNationsWomen, shattering stereotypes and offering five solutions to better understanding refugees and why we should invest in their limitless potential. 


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Maya has equally supported a wide range of UNHCR’s private-sector partnerships. In September 2023, she travelled to an Aviation Conference in Lugano, Switzerland. She shared her inspiring story of breaking down barriers as a female, hijabi-wearing Syrian refugee who never thought she would be allowed past airport security, let alone into a cockpit.

Maya shared her story to encourage people to continue supporting UNHCR university scholarships, enabling refugees to realise their ambitions and achieve their limitless potential.  

Maya has also proactively supported UNHCR in various media interviews and has been featured in many social media videos, including World Refugee Day and Ramadan. In 2019, she cooked up a storm with fellow UNHCR high-profile supporter Stanley Tucci for Buzzfeed’s ‘Proper Tasty’ segment.


Maya Ghazal's work as a Goodwill Ambassador

A young woman stands in a desertic area, where a refugee camp is visible in the background
Visit in Jordan
Maya travelled to Jordan with UNHCR to meet fellow Syrian refugees, who shared their own experiences of displacement with her.
Youth Empowerment Forum
Maya Ghazal spoke at the WE Day Youth Empowerment Forum in London, UK.
Buzzfeed's 'Proper Tasty' for World Refugee Day
Maya was featured in Buzzfeed's 'Proper Tasty' series with fellow UNHCR supporter Stanley Tucci.
Speech at TED x PlaceDesNationsWomen
Maya delivered a compelling speech at TED x PlaceDesNationsWomen.
Global Refugee Forum
Maya was a co-sponsor of the education session at the first-ever Global Refugee Forum.
#EveryoneCounts campaign
Maya met high-profile supporter Douglas Booth as part of a UNHCR social media campaign #EveryoneCounts.
UK's Houses of Parliament for World Refugee Day
Maya took part in a World Refugee Day event at the UK Parliament together with refugees, politicians, actors and fellow UNHCR Goodwill Ambassadors.

News and highlights

Find the latest news and key highlights about Maya's work as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.