NEW YORK (June 20, 2023) - UNICEF USA has appointed Olympic Gold Medalist Laurie Hernandez as the organization’s newest Ambassador. The announcement comes on World Refugee Day, closely following Laurie’s visit to the Darién region of Panama where she visited the Temporary Migration Reception Station (TMRS) and indigenous host community of Lajas Blancas. 

Established in 2020, the TMRS was launched as a response to support the increasing flow of migrants through the Darién Gap, one of the most perilous migration routes in the world. Between January and May of 2023, Migration Services registered 34,127 children who have traveled this route, with 3-4 unaccompanied children arriving daily. These numbers have increased seven-fold as compared to the same period in 2022.  UNICEF is on the ground providing humanitarian assistance to children in transit with a focus on water, sanitation and hygiene services and supplies (WASH), child protection services for unaccompanied and separated children and psychosocial support for women and children, and mother-child health services.

While in Panama, Hernandez visited with children at a UNICEF-established Child Friendly Space, a welcoming space for kids to rest, play, and simply be a child. She read her New York Times bestselling book, You’ve Got This, about hope and perseverance, and also visited a Self-Care Space for women and adolescents, focusing on providing psychosocial support with a gender approach.

The number of children who travel through the Darién Gap is astounding,” said Hernandez. “Witnessing families with babies and small children arrive by boat after this frightening journey is a powerful reminder of the importance of UNICEF’s work on the ground - providing clean water and sanitation, safe spaces and psychosocial support. I am honored to be the newest UNICEF Ambassador - on World Refugee Day and beyond, I will advocate for all children to help ensure an equitable future.”

Hernandez began supporting UNICEF USA in 2018 when she called for a child's rights to be safe and protected above issues of party and politics in Washington D.C.  She has worked alongside youth advocates to bring awareness to Mental Health Day and used her platform to underline the importance of empowering children around the world.

“We are thrilled to welcome Laurie Hernandez to our family of UNICEF USA Ambassadors,” said Chief Marketing Officer of UNICEF USA, Shelley Diamond. “Since her Olympic debut in Rio in 2016, Laurie has proven to be a positive role model for children and adults alike and has become an outspoken advocate for children’s rights. On World Refugee Day, it is particularly powerful for Laurie to give a voice to children on the move and to help ensure all children are healthy, educated, protected and respected.”

As a UNICEF Ambassador, Hernandez joins a roster of high-profile individuals who advocate for children’s rights on behalf of UNICEF including Sofia Carson, Selena Gomez, Jeremy Lin, Alyssa Milano and P!NK among others.

To learn more about supporting UNICEF's work in Panama visit

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Photos and Videos Courtesy of MANGLAR FILMS for UNICEF USA

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to pursue a more equitable world for every child. UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization, by providing health care and immunizations, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF USA advances the global mission of UNICEF by rallying the American public to support the world’s most vulnerable children. Together, we are working toward a world that upholds the rights of all children and helps every child thrive. For more information, visit

For more information, contact
Alyssa Scott, UNICEF USA