Meet Mary Maker: UNHCR newest global goodwill ambassador

By William Madouk

Meet Mary Maker, a South Sudanese refugee who fled conflict in South Sudan and found safety in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

After overcoming obstacles to complete her high school studies in the country, Ms. Maker became a teacher to young refugees in Kakuma refugee camp and a passionate advocate for their right to education, especially for girls.

“My memories of South Sudan as a child – they are beautiful, sweet memories of family, of love. When our village was attacked, we lost family members and friends that we used to live together and we have to leave,” Ms. Maker said. 

“It was when my family crossed into Kenya that I first saw UNHCR’s logo on big white trucks. I was so full of fear that initially I was unsure of whether that was a good or bad sign, but my mother said to us ‘I think help has come,” she said.

Presently, Mary is studying Theatre and Literature as part of a scholarship program at a university in the United States as life started to smiles on her again.

“For me to come to college it took me years trying to apply for scholarship and I give it my all. There was a program in Rwanda that would prepare me for college and I said, yes! I had to study day and nights”

“I was afraid of failing and was afraid of going back to camp at the same time and I finally got admitted to St Olf college (US),”  

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) just appointed Mary Maker as UNHCR’s newest Goodwill Ambassador in March 2023.

In conversation with UNHCR to mark her appointment, Mary Maker revealed what being a Goodwill Ambassador means to her and what she hopes to achieve in the years to come. 

“I’ve been supporting UNHCR since 2018 and, as a refugee myself, have valued the opportunity to represent and speak up for other displaced people around the world,

“Now, as a Goodwill Ambassador, I can continue to use my voice and my personal experience to help raise awareness about the increasing needs of those displaced,”

Mary said as an actor, writer and director – a storyteller – and as an education advocate, she is both excited and honored to be part of UNCHR’s Goodwill Ambassador family.

“To me, becoming a Goodwill Ambassador means ensuring that every refugee is seen, and we invest in their potential. I want displaced people to have a voice,”

“I see myself as a storyteller and in my role as a Goodwill Ambassador, I aim to lift up those voices and help tell the stories of those who are unheard. I am passionate about education so I also want to support UNHCR in its efforts to ensure all displaced people can access a quality education,”

Mary said “Once I better understood UNHCR’s role and their purpose, I knew that I wanted to support their work. I knew that I could help them – to help the millions of other refugees around the world who are in desperate need of support.”

After fleeing conflict and finding hope through education – first as a student then a teacher – she is now a passionate advocate and storyteller who aims to amplify the voices of other refugees.

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