Hailing from Syria, where Yusra Mardini and her sister fled the war-torn country and saved the lives of 20 people, including their own, after jumping off their sinking boat into the Aegean Sea and pushing it to land, this refugee has a story like no other.
Whilst most teenagers would be getting ready for prom and worrying about A-levels, Yusra had left her home country and set off to find safety in Europe, where she began training for the 2016 Rio Olympics. She won a 100m butterfly heat against four other swimmers, which is where the name for her autobiography, Butterfly, came from.
Fast-forward two years and the 20-year old athlete has released an book of memoirs and been named the youngest ever UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) Goodwill Ambassador. Yusra recently travelled to Sicily and Greece to meet refugees seeking asylum.
“I heard the stories of the refugees who had made the perilous journey from North Africa to Italy. Their journey, like mine, was one of absolute danger and desperation too,” she writes in her biography. Visiting Italy with UNHCR, meeting with refugees and asylum seekers as well as the Sicilian Coastguard, has helped me to understand what it means to be a Goodwill Ambassador for this UN Agency whose mandate is to protect refugees all over the world and help them build better futures. It’s not an easy job.”
Yusra Mardini is now training for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where she will compete for the Refugee Olympic Athletes Team. Her autobiography Butterfly is out now.