Memory of child refugee campaigner lives on with prize

  • Date

    Mon 22 Aug 22

Rima Cherri

The memory of a passionate storyteller, campaigner and researcher who dedicated her life to shining a light on the plight of child refugees will live on in a new prize.

Memory of child refugee campaigner lives on with prize

Inspiring PhD student, Rima Cherri, sadly passed away last year aged 34 – but her legacy of giving a voice to the voiceless will continue at The University of Essex.

The Rima Cherri Prize in Refugee Care will be introduced next term with £1,000 awarded to the best dissertation written by a Refugee Care master’s student.

This is a fitting tribute to courageous Rima, who worked as a journalist for Reuters and video producer for the United Nations Refugee Agency, focusing on the struggles of refugee children.

In her short but rich life, Rima travelled the world helping vulnerable children and later launched the charity U-Turn Lives – which aims to make a meaningful and long-lasting difference in the lives of vulnerable children so they can, one day, contribute to making positive change in their communities.

She passionately believed the world needed to do more to support vulnerable children.

Her doctoral research was the culmination of her experience in refugee camps and a meaningful quest for the same cause, in which she studied how children born and raised in camps imagine the outside world.

She once said: “Children don’t know lies, or even wars. They don’t choose to be poor, nor to sleep hungry and walk bare feet. They don’t choose to work while others go to school. If they are to choose, they would probably choose to be able to be children, to just play, dream and learn.”

Rayan Cherri, Rima’s sister, said: “Love and light are what we remember Rima by. She was a genuine lover.

“She loved deeply and passionately and admired the simplest things in life.

“Through her charming light, her short life was rich with achievements that we all take eternal pride in, and thus we shall continue to reflect some of her light back at those who need it.

“We will continue her legacy. This prize is but one modest testament.

“Love and light to all those remembering Rima.”

Incredibly, Rima started her PhD at the University of Essex’s Centre for Trauma, Asylum, and Refugees after being diagnosed with stage 4 triple-negative metastatic cancer.

Despite illness, she attended some of her classes at Essex while undergoing chemotherapy and wrote some of her best essays from the hospital.

University staff remember her fondly with lecturer Dr Zibiah Loakthar praising her passion.

Dr Loakthar said: “In our Refugee Care community, we remember Rima as a resilient, innovative, mindful advocate.

“She generously and warmly shared original ideas and experiences and insight, energetically inspiring thoughtful action over apathetic response to social injustice.”

Her family and friends hope that whoever receives Rima’s annual prize carries with them her compassion for vulnerable children, her eloquence, and her belief that life is, after all, a journey awaiting meaning.

Rima talked vigorously about her illness in blogs and interviews.

She sadly passed away at the age of 34 on August 24 2021.

Rima left her parents, Amal and Jamil; her brothers, Wissam, Abed, Mohammad, and Hussein; her sisters, Rola and Rayan; and her dog, Habiba.