Crowdfunding Terminally Ill PhD Student Has Passed Away


A terminally ill PhD student who thanks to an extraordinary crowdfunding campaign was able to be reunited with her family in Iraq, has passed away.

In late October, a campaign was started to assist terminally ill linguistics PhD research student Arij Altai in travelling back to Iraq to be reunited with her family, including her 8-year-old son, one last time. Ms Altai was due to return to Iraq in September with her husband and son as their visas and sponsorship concluded, but was too ill due to terminal cancer to return with them via normal passenger plane.

After a stunning fundraising total of more than £80,000 was raised from staff, students and philanthropic donations, including a significant donation from the University of Southampton, Arij Altai was able to be safely transported on a private specialist medical flight back to Baghdad on Saturday 3rd November.

Unfortunately, on Saturday 24th November, she passed away surrounded by her family in Iraq. In a University statement responding to the news, it is stated:

Our thoughts go out to Arij’s friends and family and we would like to remind our staff and students of the support available to them.

Ms Altai was initially diagnosed in February with secondary breast cancer, but by September the cancer had spread and her condition deteriorated to the extent that she was admitted to Southampton General Hospital. Friend of Ms Altai and her family Deborah Fulcher Cornah set up a GoFundMe page to coordinate raising funds for the cheapest available specially equipped private medical flight.

Following publicity of their story on BBC South Today and the sharing of the crowdfunding campaign on social media, fundraising snowballed and a total of £83,139.53 was raised, including a £22,000 donation for the medical flight specifically from the University. This total exceeded the initial fundraising goal of £56,538.

Announcing the news of Ms Altai’s passing in an update on the GoFundMe page, Ms Fulcher Cornah stated:

With a heavy heart, we wanted to let you know that Areej passed away over the weekend. She spent some very happy times with Ali, Ahmed and her wider family over the past few weeks for which she was grateful beyond words. Thank you so much for making that possible. D.

Editor’s Note: Our thoughts and prayers go out to both Arij’s friends and family at this time.


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