Coventry University honours Ashley Cain and Safiyya Vorajee for their incredible charity efforts in memory of their daughter Azaylia

A passionate determination to raise awareness of childhood cancer has seen the parents of Azaylia Diamond Cain presented with honorary doctorates from Coventry University.

Ex-professional footballer, author, podcaster, TV presenter and motivational speaker Ashley Cain and bestselling author Safiyya Vorajee experienced the heart-breaking loss of their eight-month-old daughter Azaylia in April 2021 following a brave battle against childhood cancer.

Despite their bereavement Ashley and Safiyya have worked tirelessly to raise money to fight childhood cancer, establishing the Azaylia Foundation, which works to advance early diagnosis and new treatments.

Ashley, from Nuneaton, who is also a mental health advocate and brand ambassador, has taken part in numerous physical challenges in support of the Foundation, including taking part in the world’s toughest survival endurance race – the Yukon 1,000 – which saw him contend with dangerous waters and even grizzly bears.

Safiyya has penned the book Loving and Losing You, Azaylia: My Inspirational Daughter and our Unbreakable Bond in celebration of Azaylia’s life and promotes kindness, inclusivity and mutual support amongst children through the Foundation’s initiative Wear Orange for Azaylia.

To recognise their work and dedication, Coventry University bestowed an Honorary Doctorate of Letters on both Ashley and Safiyya at a ceremony at Coventry Cathedral on Friday.

Ashley said: “When I was first told about the Honorary Doctorate I didn’t really believe it. I thought it was a joke but really all the glory goes to my daughter, she has done so many amazing things for so many people.

“When I learnt about Azaylia’s diagnosis my heart just felt like it shattered there in the hospital. You wouldn’t wish such a thing on your worst enemy but very soon I knew the person I needed to be. I never wanted to cry in front of Azaylia, I just wanted to give her the best life I possibly could, to fill her world with smiles. She was simply incredible, those eight months felt like such a gift to me. She taught me so many lessons, I just can’t describe how incredible it was to be around that girl.

“Azaylia is my reason to fight, to push myself for the foundation, she is my superpower. My life with Azaylia was confined to a hospital but by going around the world and doing all these challenges, I feel like she’s coming around the world with me.

“I can’t put into words how amazing it was to have that level of support from so many people when we shared Azaylia’s diagnosis on social media, social media became a second family to us. I don’t think people will ever really understand what that support meant – it warmed our hearts.

“Just three percent of cancer research funding goes into childhood cancer which means survival rates stay low, and we feel our children are worth more than three percent.”

Safiyya said: “I’m absolutely overwhelmed to be presented with an honorary doctorate. The Azaylia Foundation is my life’s work and to have something that has been such a therapy for me recognised in this way is very special.

“We launched the foundation because we believe Azaylia shouldn’t just be remembered as the little girl who passed, but as the girl who helped so many others. I want her to be remembered far beyond her lifetime. She inspired over 80,000 people to join the bone marrow register, not just because it could have saved her life but for the hundreds of thousands of other lives the register can help save.

“I was always determined to fill Azaylia’s life with smiles, warmth and love, being a mother is simply the best thing that has ever happened to me and I feel so lucky to have spent such wonderful times with my incredible daughter that will stay with me for my lifetime.

“So many people followed Azaylia’s story, it was an army of love and we received so much amazing support. It really felt like humanity at its very best. When we first received Azaylia’s diagnosis, I just felt helpless and numb, we didn’t know where to turn, but having the help and support of so many people and from our NHS was just amazing.

“Childhood cancer is the biggest killer of children in the UK, yet it receives just three per cent of research cancer funding. We’re passionate about increasing awareness of this disease and we don’t want parents to have to travel abroad to seek specialist treatment for their children.

“I didn’t originally intend to write a book about Azaylia. When we were in hospital I just made notes because I wanted her to know about everything she’d fought through when she was a baby when she grew up. After Azaylia passed I was approached by a publisher about writing a book – it was therapeutic for me and I just bled every drop of my pain into that book, it helped me so much. I thought if it can just help one other person going through something like this, then it is all worth it.”

Ann-Marie Cannaby, Coventry University’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for Health, said: “We are delighted to award Honorary Doctorates to Ashley and Safiyya for their incredible work helping families battling childhood cancer. Their determination to help others in similar situations is inspirational and their commitment to challenging the status quo and driving change that improves the lives of people are qualities we and our students share.”

The Azaylia Foundation supports UK-based children battling cancer with individual treatment donations when treatments required are not covered by the NHS.

It is also working to address a shortfall in childhood cancer research funding through donations, while raising awareness and campaigning for change with community, government and health organisations.

To find out more about the Azaylia Foundation visit

About Coventry University

Coventry University is a global, modern university with a mission of creating better futures. We were founded by entrepreneurs and industrialists in 1843 as the Coventry School of Design and we continue to work with businesses to ensure we provide job-ready graduates with the skills and creative thinking to improve their communities.

With a proud tradition of innovative teaching and learning, Coventry University is now one of the largest in the UK and has world-class campus facilities, the UK’s first standalone 5G network and a digital community of learning. Our students are part of a global network that has 50,000 learners studying Coventry University degrees in more than 40 different countries and partnerships with 150 higher education providers worldwide.

Over two centuries, we have flourished in our home city and Coventry University Group now also delivers access to our range of high-quality services and partnerships through bases in London, Scarborough, Belgium, Poland, Egypt, Dubai, Singapore and Africa. From September 2023, we will be teaching students at a new campus in China in a joint institution with Communication University of China.

We have greatly increased our research capacity and capability with a focus on impactful research, delivered for and with partners to address real-world challenges and support the sustainable growth of business and communities. The depth and breadth of our rapidly growing research portfolio was validated by the latest UK research assessment, which saw us jump 22 places in the research power rankings.

We were awarded a Gold rating in the 2023 Teaching Excellence Framework, proving we deliver excellence in what students care most about – teaching, learning and achieving positive outcomes from their studies. In 2022, we were honoured with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the category of International Trade, the UK’s most prestigious business award. In recent years, we have won many awards and vastly improved our rankings in the league tables that matter to students – but what matters to us is delivering transformational change for our students, partners and communities around the world as we continue to evolve into a global education group.