The first-ever recipient of The Rima Cherri Prize in Refugee Care was revealed today - 18 months after Rima passed away whilst studying at Essex.
Benedicte Mulholland accepted the award for her MA dissertation, which was judged to be the best written by a Masters student.
Her work on biometrics, AI and its practical and ethical implications was deemed to make an “important contribution to our field” by senior academics.
As a humanitarian communication consultant for UNICEF and other international organisations, Benedicte has worked with child refugees in many countries.
“I am overjoyed and deeply honoured to be the first winner of the Rima Cherri Prize,” said Benedicte.
“Rima’s family have done a very special thing in setting up this prize and making sure her hard work and passion for refugee care carries on her name.
“Winning this prize means so much to me as I have worked with child refugees in Beirut where Rima worked so hard to improve the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
“My time at the University of Essex was very special and I hope to take the lessons from my studies here out into the wider world to make a real difference to vulnerable people’s lives.”
PhD student, Rima Cherri, passed away in 2021 aged just 34. In the wake of her tragic passing, Rima’s family set up the prize.
Starting in 2023, £1,000 will be awarded annually to the best dissertation written by a Refugee Care Masters student.
This is a fitting tribute to the courageous Rima, who worked as a journalist at several esteemed outlets including Reuters, before focusing on the struggles of refugee children as a video producer for the United Nations Refugee Agency.
Rayan Cherri, Rima’s sister, said: “Rima has always been an inspiration to us.
“We continue to look back and learn from her passion to voice the stories of vulnerable people and to care for humans and matters that give life meaning.
“We’re proud to build on her legacy by acknowledging and rewarding thoughtful work which, in turn, inspires us to do more to help others, knowing that one can always make a difference.
“There are no time limits to this.
“Congratulations to Benedicte. We are so pleased to honour her great work which will surely make its own impact in the field.”
Her thoughts were echoed by lecturer in refugee care Dr Zibiah Loakthar.
She said: “Congratulations to all our Refugee Care students on their scholarly and thoughtful pieces of research and to Benedicte for becoming the very first recipient of our Rima Cherri Prize.
“Rima is fondly remembered within our Refugee Care community. Remembering Rima, I imagine she would have been curious about and greatly interested to discuss the implications of this research.
“Benedicte's outstanding dissertation on ‘Understanding the Impact of Biometrics and Artificial Intelligence Technologies in Refugee Care: A Literature Review’ makes an important contribution to our field, promoting reflection upon practical and ethical implications concerning the use of AI and biometrics in the humanitarian sector.”