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Yusra Mardini appointed UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador

The Olympic swimmer and refugee helped save a sinking boat carrying Syrian refugees in 2015.

Yusra Mardini

The UN Refugee Agency announced on Thursday the appointment of 19-year-old Yusra Mardini, Syrian Olympic athlete and refugee, as a Goodwill Ambassador.

Yusra Mardini will be joining other notables like actress Cate Blanchett and Author Khaled Hosseini in the delivering and promotion of ideals in favor of refugee’s rights.

Accepting the new role, Yusra stated: “I could not be more proud to be part of the UNHCR family and Team Refugees. I want to encourage all refugees to continue with their education and not stop at one point in their lives.”

Olympic athlete and refugee advocator

Mardini swam on the first Refugee Olympic team in Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Since then, she has worked closely with UNHCR, highlighting with her own experiences the global refugee crisis.

The Syrian athlete won a 100m butterfly heat at the Rio Olympics, with a time of 1:09:21.

In September 2016, Mardini advocated at the UN General Assembly for the rights of refugees to have access to safe shelter, education, livelihoods and training opportunities.

“There is no shame in being a refugee if we remember who we are. We are still the doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers, students we were back at home. We are still the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. It was war and persecution that drove us from our homes in search of peace. That is refugee. That is who I am. That is who we all are, that growing population of people without a country. I am a refugee and I’m proud to stand for peace, for decency and dignity for all those fleeing violence. Join me. Stand with us.”

Yusra’s story

Yusra Mardini is responsible along her sister Sarah for helping save the lives of 20 people, including their own.

Mardini sisters were among the group of 20 passengers on a boat that was meant to transport them from Turkey to the coast of Lesvos, Greece. However, thirty minutes after setting from Turkey, the motor on their boat began to fail.

Most of the people aboard could not swim. The sisters and two other swimmers jumped into the sea and swam for three and half hours risking their own lives to save those of the people onboard.

“I had one hand with the rope attached to the boat as I moved my two legs and one arm. It was three and half hours in cold water. Your body is almost like … done. I don’t know if I can describe that,” mentions Yusra about the experience.

Mardini has now settled in Berlin along with her family. She studies and trains every day and is willing to compete at the next Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020.


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