Syrian refugee and Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini was appointed the youngest ever Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency in April 2017, aged just 19. She advocates for refugees globally through sharing her own inspiring story and has become a powerful voice for the forcibly displaced across the world and an example of their resilience and determination to rebuild lives and positively contribute to host communities.
Yusra was selected to compete at Rio 2016 as part of the first ever Refugee Olympic Team. She was catapulted on to the world’s stage and subsequently went on to address world leaders at the UN General Assembly, meet the Pope and be honoured with several awards. Yusra’s incredible story is told in her memoir ‘Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian - My Story of Rescue, Hope and Triumph’ which is currently being adapted into a film.
Yusra has spoken on behalf of UNHCR at Google Zeitgeist, WE Day, the World Economic Forum in Davos and many other global stages. She also supports UNHCR campaigns and events and fundraising activities. Yusra hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics, rescheduled to 2021.
In September 2019 Yusra returned to the Middle East for the first time since fleeing her home. She travelled to Jordan with UNHCR to spend time with fellow Syrians living in Zaatari Refugee Camp. She met with a group of young girls involved in an informal education and empowerment project at a UNHCR supported community centre, hearing their stories and encouraging them to pursue their dreams.
In April 2018 Yusra travelled with UNHCR to meet refugees in Sicily who had undertaken similar journeys to her own to escape conflict and reach safety. Yusra reflected on her trip in a takeover of the official UNHCR Instagram account and wrote the foreword for our Desperate Journeys report focused on children and young people. In August 2017 Yusra travelled with UNHCR to Japan to undertake a series of high level advocacy meetings, give an inspirational speech at a school, and undertake several media interviews and a Facebook Live with fellow UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Miyavi.