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.


Program Manager, Athens

Background: Mariam is currently completing a Masters of Science in Socio-Ecological Economics and Policy at the University of Vienna. Originally from Iraq, she is fluent in Arabic and English. She also speaks German. She has spent the past five years working in the field of refugee aid and support. 

Experience: Mariam has over five years of experience working with refugees and migrants in Athens, London, and Vienna. With a focus on the empowerment of vulnerable groups, she has taken part in inclusive initiatives and projects which aim to promote the voices, needs and desires of these groups. She has worked as a site manager in Athens at a shelter for vulnerable women and children, which also functions as a day-centre open to all refugees and migrants. Further to this, she operated as a case worker for ATLAS, a platform dedicated to the aiding of LGBT+ migrants and refugees in Athens. She has designed numerous volunteer handbooks and trainings attempting to minimise malpractice and exploitation, whilst attempting to promote cultural understanding. 


Breastfeeding counselor and interpreter, CHEERing

Background: Pierrette works with CHEERing as a breastfeeding peer counselor, as well as a French and Lingala interpreter. Pierrette came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Greece as a refugee and has settled in Athens with her child and husband. Pierrette works at all of CHEERing’s clinic locations, and has provided intensive support at Elna Maternity Center in Athens, where exclusive breastfeeding rates have risen as a result of her work. 

Experience: Pierrette studied Nursing for three years in the DRC and had internships at various health institutions, including the Red Cross Hospital, Kinshasa General Hospital, and Mother & Child Center of Kinshasa.


Program Assistant, CHEERing

Background: Lena recently graduated from the Faculty of Health Sciences of University of West Attica, Greece with a degree in Community Health. 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.


Refugee Peer Counselor

Background: Leila assists with height and weight measurements in Elna’s shelter and serves as a translator for Persian languages.

Experience: Leila is from Iran, where she studied pharmacy and architecture at the university and worked as a pharmacist’s assistant and technician in a hospital pharmacy. In this role, she assisted the pharmacists with medication dispensation and preparation of prescriptions..



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


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.