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Laura Dorr is the executive editor of DPR's Modern Dental Network.
Deah Barakat, one of three students murdered on February 10 in Chapel Hill, NC, had a goal to provide dental care to Syrian refugees. Since his death, people have rallied to ensure that goal is achieved.
Barakat, a second-year student at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry, was murdered in his home on Tuesday, along with his wife (who was to enroll in the School of Dentistry later this year) and sister-in-law. A neighbor of the students was arrested in conjunction with the shooting, but motive for the crime has not been definitively determined (parking disputes and religious persecution have both been mentioned as potential factors).
Dedicated to the community and charitable works, Barakat helped organize a project called “Refugee Smiles,” a program designed to provide dental care to Syrian refugees. Barakat facilitated a partnership between UNC School of Dentistry and the Syrian American Medical Society to set up a YouCaring.com fundraising effort to garner funds for the project.
According to the project’s description on the website, the dental situation in Syria – and refugee camps for people fleeing the Syrian civil war – has become desperate. The fundraising campaign was set up to raise money to send Barakat and 10 dentists and faculty from UNC to a refugee camp in Rihaniya, Turkey to provide dental care to young students at a local school. In addition to performing cleanings, fillings and extractions, the team aimed to spread awareness about oral hygiene. They also planned to pass out dental supplies such as toothbrushes and toothpaste in refugees in the area. Barakat and the group hoped to raise $20,000 from the campaign to travel to Turkey this summer.
In the wake of Barakat’s murder, support for the program has exploded, collecting far more than the $20,000 goal. With over 100 days left in the YouCaring.com campaign, the project has raised over $312,000 – and the amount is still going up. The organization has not yet discussed how the surplus funds will be allocated, but are glad to know that the legacy of the dedicated young man will carry on, thanks to the generosity of thousands of people from across the world.
To learn more about Refugee Smiles, check out the YouCaring.com fundraising page, or watch Barakat’s campaign video: