Geneva- The United Nations refugee agency said Thursday it had enlisted Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini to help raise awareness about the plight of refugees by appointing her as its newest Goodwill Ambassador.
Mardini “has become a powerful voice for the forcibly displaced across the world and a powerful example of their resilience and determination to rebuild lives and positively contribute to host communities,” UNHCR said in a statement.
“Yusra is a deeply inspiring young woman,” UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi said.
He added that the Syrian teen “represents the hopes, the fears and the incredible potential of the more than ten million young refugees around the globe.”
In 2015, like millions of others, Mardini fled her home. During a perilous journey to the Greek island of Lesbos on board a packed dinghy, the engine failed and the craft began taking on water.
Mardini and her sister jumped into the sea, grabbed a rope and spent the next three-and-a-half hours in the choppy water towing the boat to safety.
The 19-year-old, who has settled in Germany with her family, went on to take part in the first ever Olympic refugee team at the Rio de Janeiro games last year.
Mardini herself said she was thrilled with her appointment.
“I could not be more proud to be part of this team,” Mardini told reporters in Geneva.
“There is no shame in being a refugee if we remember who we are,” she said.
“I am a refugee and I’m proud to stand for peace, for decency and dignity for all those fleeing violence,” the teen added.