Ambassadors for watch brands lean heavily toward athletes and film stars or producers; sometimes they are all that and more. Oris has taken on Yusra Mardini, a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). As a refugee herself, Mardini is representative of a growing population of people displaced by wars, who need support and who want to bring attention to the plight of displaced people. Her status as an Olympic swimmer is part of her story as a refugee. In 2015, Mardini escaped the Syrian civil war by making her way to Greece by dinghy. When the dinghy’s engine failed, Mardini, along with her sister Sara and two others who could swim, jumped into the water and pushed and pulled the boat to safety. After three hours in the water, they reached the island of Lesbos. Eventually, they were granted asylum in Germany, and settled in Berlin. A year later, Mardini competed at the Rio Olympics as a member of the first Refugee Olympic Team, qualifying again for the Tokyo Games. Her story of determination and triumph in the face of great adversity earned international attention. In 2017, she was appointed a UNHCR Goodwill ambassador.
A year later, Mardini authored a book about her story called Butterfly, which became the Netflix film The Swimmers. This year, she and her sister, Sara, were listed in Time 100, an annual list of the most influential people in the world. In June, she launched the Yusra Mardini Foundation to support UNHCR projects. These include helping refugees access health care, education and jobs.
“So much still has to change for refugees to increase their chances of beginning new and successful lives,” she says. “Together with Oris and through the Yusra Mardini Foundation, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to push for that change and to show the world: everyone must be treated equally.”