Sara Mardini: From Refugee to Rescuer

BY: Ellie Hitt

In 2015, when the engine failed on the lifeboat carrying her and 20 other individuals from Turkey to Lesbos, Greece, Sara Mardini bravely jumped into the water to keep it afloat. Swimming for over three hours, she and her sister were willing to sacrifice their lives to protect the others on the boat. After 3.5 hours in the open water, they made it safely to shore and have started lives anew away from their home in Damascus.

Honest and smart as a tack, Sara talked to us about the normality of her life in Damascus before the war (essentially driving around spending her dad’s money and swimming), her journey from Syria to Berlin and back to Greece, and the importance of advocating for refugee and women’s rights.

Unfortunately for Sara, her dream of being an Olympic swimmer would never come to fruition due to a shoulder injury generated that fateful day. Although not able to swim on account of her shoulder injury, she was able to cheer her sister Ysra on at the 201 Rio Olympic games where she represented the refugee team. Despite her experience, she reminded us, “Be proud of yourself and no one can break you.”

With her swimming dream deferred, she decided instead to give her life in the service of others, using her self-described life saving English skills to teach others who are fleeing the Syrian conflict.

Moved after her talk, participants tearfully approached Sara to sing her praises and she welcomed them with literal open arms. It’s easy for anyone to see that Sara remains optimistic. She has since returned to Greece to work for Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI), a greek nonprofit that provides emergency response and humanitarian aid. Just like our team at Urban Refuge, she “believes in people”, for ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

With her swimming dream deferred, she decided instead to give back her life in the service of others, using her self-described life saving English skills to teach others who are fleeing the Syrian conflict.

After accomplishing and overcoming so much, what’s her next stop?  Hopefully Harvard, oh and (in her own words) “I want to be Amal Clooney.”

Interested in supporting Sarah’s efforts with the ERCI? Check out her page here: https://www.gofundme.com/refugee-to-refugee