Maya Ghazal was awarded the Diana Award in 2017 for her work supporting refugees and using her voice to tackle refugee issues. Here she explains how she is breaking down stereotypes about refugees on her journey to becoming a pilot.

My childhood was just like any other typical childhood. I saw females as doctors, engineers and politicians, so I knew I could be involved in these fields and I based my dreams on these few professions.

But when I arrived in the UK, my dreams took a different turn. I struggled to get access to university courses and had limited choices for subjects to study. So, when I saw that there was space on an engineering course, it was something I felt excited to consider. There are few females in the field of engineering, so I felt strongly about discovering the field wider.

“I have always had an interest for flying.”

Maya hopes to become one of the first female, Syrian pilots.

Photo credit: Arteh Odjidja


But my journey to become a pilot hasn’t been an easy one. When I arrived in the UK from Syria, it was very challenging for me to integrate into my new country and I had to go through a lot of challenges and barriers, including getting to grips with the community, the language and British culture. I moved to the UK when I was 16 so it was a critical time of developing myself and my studies, and I found the language barrier was an especially hard thing to break. But although my English wasn’t the best at times, I still stood and spoke up about the challenges and struggles that I faced as a young refugee.

Being able to speak out has helped me raise my voice on the things that I am passionate about. It is important for me to speak out and somehow change people’s mindset about Syrians and female pilots. I was rejected from 3 schools because I wasn’t good enough, and yet here I am now, in university and studying to be a pilot at the age of 19. It is my future and part of my message, so I hope I can inspire others to stand up for themselves and follow their passions, just as I have!

Maya Speaking at Ted X conference

I hope that I can carry on spreading my message about breaking stereotypes and diminishing the labels that limit the confidence of others. I hope that people across the world will treat each other kinder and that peace will come to all countries. I hope I can become a pilot and prove my point that anyone can do anything as long as they believe in themselves and their abilities.

Believe in yourself. The change that you want to see in the world can only start from you! You can change the world. Your compassion and faith is enough to lift you up and keep you determined. It is not about what people say or think, it is about how you want it to be, what you want to happen and what you think is right.

Your smallest act of kindness can change someone’s life, so don’t keep it in.


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