19 May 2017

Inspirational teenage refugee wins inaugural Diana Legacy Award for transforming the lives of others

Prince Harry, Maya Ghazal and the Duke of Cambridge smiling

Prince Harry, Maya Ghazal and the Duke of Cambridge

Two years ago 15 year old Maya Ghazal arrived in the UK from Syria, friendless, lonely and homesick, speaking no English, and just aiming to start a new life with her family.

Now, just a couple of years later, having been supported to settle in the UK by The Children’s Society and inspired to help countless refugees like her by sharing her story she has been chosen out of thousands of young people to win a national award inspired by the late Princess Diana - presented to her by Princes William and Harry.

Yesterday Maya Ghazal (18) was called to St James’ Palace to accept an inaugural Diana Legacy Award, marking 20 years since Princess Diana’s passing and highlighting the achievements of 20 exceptional young people from across the world for their selfless commitment to transforming the lives of others.

Determination to help others and create positive social change

The teenager has been recognised for her determination to help others and create positive social change in her work as an inspirational volunteer speaker and ambassador for The Children’s Society, a national charity that supports vulnerable children and young people.

When Maya first arrived in the UK in 2015 she felt isolated and missed her home. She turned to national children’s charity The Children’s Society’s MyPlace service in Birmingham to help her make friends and settle into life in England.

The charity has supported young refugees and migrants to stay safe and rebuild their lives in the UK for over 70 years and this project runs sessions for young refugees and migrants so they can cook meals together, have fun and get advice from legal and translation services.

Compassion, kindness and service

After getting help from The Children’s Society to integrate into her new life and after learning English fluently, Maya decided she wanted to give something back and started to volunteer for the charity as an ambassador to speak up about the hidden dangers faced by young refuges and migrants and make others aware of the charity’s life-changing work. Now she speaks in churches around the country - and in the media.

The Diana Legacy Award chose Maya as one of 20 outstanding young people who embody the late Princess’ qualities of compassion, kindness and service.  She faced huge challenges at a very young age but drew on the support of The Children’s Society to rebuild a life in the UK and now has a bright future ahead. Still just 18, Maya is studying engineering at college and hopes to go to university later this year.

On winning her award, Maya said: 'It feels such an honour to win the Diana Legacy Award for transforming the lives of others.

'When I first arrived in England I really wanted to start a new life but could never have imagined coming so far and winning an award like this!

'I've learnt so much from working with The Children’s Society and speaking out about issues affecting young refugees and migrants in England. It’s something I really enjoy and I hope others are helped and share my feeling of hope for the future.'

The Chief Executive for The Children’s Society, Matthew Reed, said: 'Maya is an inspiration to us all and we are delighted she has received such prestigious recognition from the Diana Legacy Awards. The Children’s Society has services across the country working directly with vulnerable children and young people including young refugees and migrants who often feel very isolated and need a lot of support when settling into life in the UK. 

'Maya is such a wonderful ambassador who goes out of her way to help others. Everyone who hears her talk is extremely moved by her bravery, passion and spirit and it’s down to special people like Maya that we’re able to continue our life-changing work.'

Find out more about our work with young refugees and migrants.


Media enquiries

For more information, please call The Children’s Society media team on 020 7841 4422 or email media@childrenssociety.org.uk. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508. 

Notes to editors

The Children’s Society is a national charity that runs local services, helping children and young people when they are at their most vulnerable, and have nowhere left to turn. We also campaign for changes to laws affecting children and young people, to stop the mistakes of the past being repeated in the future. Our supporters around the country fund our services and join our campaigns to show children and young people they are on their side.