Our Team

Anne Merewood, PhD, MPH, IBCLC

Director, Center for Health Equity, Education, and Research in Greece (CHEERing)

Background: As the director of CHEER in Greece, Dr. Merewood oversees CHEERing’s work in infant nutrition and maternal-child health services to mothers, infants, and families in the Skaramagas, Oinofyta, and Eleonas refugee camps, and the Elna Maternity Center. Dr Merewood also directs CHEER, the Center for Health Equity, Education, and Research, at the Boston University School of Medicine, and the Communities and Hospitals Advancing Maternity Practices (CHAMPS) project, an initiative that promotes best practices in maternity care, increases breastfeeding rates, decreases racial and ethnic disparities, and supports hospitals to adopt the World Health Organization’s Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and gain Baby-Friendly designation.

Experience: Dr. Merewood is an Associate Professor Pediatrics at the Boston University School of Medicine and an Associate Professor of Community Health Sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health. She has served as the Director of the Breastfeeding Center at Boston Medical Center and as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Human Lactation, as well as Consultant to the US Department of Health and Human Service’s Indian Health Service.


Airinie H. Azhar, BSc

National Coordinator, CHEERing

Background: An infant nutrition and education specialist, Airinie directs the CHEERing program onsite in Greece, and visits mothers of young infants in the Skaramagas, Oinofyta, and Eleonas refugee camps and the Elna Maternity Center, weighing, measuring and tracking infants’ growth on a weekly basis. She also leads educational sessions and trainings for refugee women about breastfeeding, sexual health, nutrition, and infant development, and supervises CHEERing’s volunteers in Greece.

Experience: Airinie has worked as a Finance & IT Manager, as a Guardian for Unaccompanied Minors, and as a Personal Assistant. She is an active food and lifestyle blogger and an amateur photographer.


Shaista Karimi, BSc

Breastfeeding counselor and interpreter, CHEERing

Background: Shaista is a physiotherapist from Afghanistan who also has experience in breastfeeding counseling and support. Shaista came to Greece as a refugee and has settled in Athens with her children and husband. She is fluent in Farsi, Pashtu, and Urdu, and serves a dual role as a counselor and an interpreter for CHEERing.

Experience: In addition to Shaista’s 20 years’ experience as a physiotherapist in Afghanistan, she has worked internationally in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the Red Cross, and as a volunteer interpreter on the Greek islands. She has an additional certification in women’s health and Pelvic Floor physiotherapy. She also works as an interpreter for AMURTEL in Athens, Greece.


KATERINA BALASKA, RD, MSC, IBCLC

Consultant

Background: Katerina is a Nutritionist and International Certified Breast Advisor – IBCLC.

Experience: Katerina studied Nutrition and Dietetics at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland, and did her MSc in Nutrition, Exercise and Public Health at the University of Bristol in England. She has specialized in the nutritional management of eating disorders with the Diploma in Practitioner Skills for Eating Disorders from the UK National Center for Eating Disorders in Greece. In 2012 she was certified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).


LENA PLOUMI

Volunteer

Background: Lena is currently majoring in Community Health at the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of West Attica, Greece. In addition, she is participating in EDUVAC, an intensive course on vaccinations in Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Finland.

Experience: Lena has experience in clinical practice on Maternity and Child Healthcare Stations in Athens, Greece. Lena has experience in health promotion in the community, both in the field of vaccination and breastfeeding. In the past she has also worked voluntarily with refugee populations in Greece.


YILDIZ GUMUSTEKIN

Volunteer

Background: Yildiz is a social worker and volunteer for CHEERing.

Experience: Yildiz has served as a social worker for the UN IOM Turkey MHPSS Team, as an intern for the Portugal Refugee Council and for the Probation Office, Turkey-Yalova, and as a volunteer for the Team for Youth Association, Romania-Baia Mare.


Lea Ruiz

Volunteer

Background: Lea is currently studying psychology, after receiving a diploma as a Nutritionist last year in France. Lea also speaks french and is a volunteer and French interpreter for CHEERing.

Experience: Lea has done several internships as a dietitian in hospitals for an organization working with HIV-positive patients and school kitchens, and has experience as an activities coordinator/facilitator with SCI HELLAS organization and Drop in the Ocean organization. 
Lea primarily supports CHEERing’s work in Eleonas camp.


BECca Young

Volunteer

Background: Becca is a third-year medical student at the University of Oxford, England and volunteer for CHEERing.

Experience: Becca has experience in fundraising for refugee causes in the UK, as well as hospital volunteering and experience through her medical degree, and is joining CHEERing to learn more about mother-baby care and the NGO sector, as well as to make a practical difference on the ground.


RUNA JARJOUR

Volunteer

Background: Runa speaks Arabic and French and will start her undergraduate degree in Arabic and Persian at Oxford this October.

Experience: Runa has interpreted for Syrian families ever since they began resettling in the UK. She has also organised youth clubs for Syrian children and has given presentations on how communities can help welcome and integrate Syrian refugees, as well as how Syrians can overcome barriers such as the language. In the past, she has also helped run music workshops with refugee schools in Turkey and Lebanon.


Sharon Adelman, M.S.W.

Volunteer

Background: Sharon is a recently retired Social Worker and psychotherapist who did clinical work primarily on depression, anxiety, drug addiction, adolescence, mental illness, marriage and family therapy, and group therapy.

Experience: Sharon has worked in residential treatment with dually diagnosed clients, adolescents and latency –aged children, a psychiatric inpatient unit, a day treatment hospital and school-based treatment. She has experience teaching as an adjunct instructor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and Boston University, Boston Massachusetts. She has also taught in psychiatric training programs at University Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, and Mass Mental Hospital in Boston Mass.