In 2015, Yusra Mardini and her sister swam for hours to reach Europe after their boat capsized in the Mediterranean. Since then, the swimmer has participated in the Olympics and is now representing the UN refugee agency.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) named Yusra Mardini its ambassador on Thursday. Speaking at a press conference, Mardini said, “I am grateful for this opportunity and platform to tell the world that whilst we are young…we have already experienced horrors, loved and lost homes, friends and family as if we have lived 100 years.”
“Of course, I’m really hoping that in the next Olympics, there will be a new refugee Olympic team and I am sure that all the world is supporting that because it was a really good idea,” she added.
The 19-year-old swimmer is currently studying in Berlin and trains two to three hours everyday. She plans to go to a UNHCR mission in Tokyo, venue for the 2020 Olympics.
She said that in her new role as the UNHCR ambassador, she wanted to show people “that refugees are actually humans and normal people also, who can do a lot of things like them.”
According to UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi, Mardini and people like her represented “the hopes, the fears and the incredible potential of the more than 10 million young refugees around the globe.”
Mardini and her sister left Syria two years ago and were crossing over to Greece from Turkey, when they decided to abandon their overloaded boat and swim towards their destination instead. The swimmer participated as a member of the Refugee Olympic team in Rio last year and has also discussed challenges faced by asylum seekers with world leaders like Pope Francis and former US President Barack Obama.