In 2015, Yusra Mardini fled the war in Syria with her sister, travelling from Damascus to Beirut to Istanbul, and then literally swimming to Europe when the boat the teenagers had paid to take them to the Greek Island of Lesbos began to sink.
Once in Europe, the pair walked and hitched lifts across seven countries to finally find sanctuary in Germany. And less than 12 months later, Mardini, took part in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as a member of the first ever Refugee Olympic Athletes team, under the Olympic flag.
Seven years and a second Olympics later, the now 25-year-old - whose life has been made into a Netflix film - has launched the Yusra Mardini Foundation to deliver sports programmes and opportunities to young people living in refugee camps around the world.
“When I arrived in Germany, the thing that gave me hope was swimming,” Mardini tells Philanthropy Age in an interview. “I am focussing my foundation on sports development so that other young refugees can also have hope, as well as just feel normal, because that is really, really important.”
The foundation, which Mardini has co-founded with Sven Spannekrebs, her former Olympic swimming coach, is registered in Germany and the US.
Mardini says she is still working out some of the details, but she wants to raise funding to be able to roll out sports projects for young refugees, initially in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey – where more than five million Syrian refugees currently reside.