Flooded by an outpouring of support in the days following his murder, Chapel Hill victim Deah Barakat's charitable fundraising effort — Project: Refugee Smiles — has smashed its goal of $20,000 and raised over $235,000.
Project: Refugee Smiles aims to supply Syrian refugees with toothbrushes and toothpaste, educates children about dental hygiene, and supports local clinics in Turkey. The project operates under the Syrian American Medical Society.
Barakat, the 23-year-old who was shot and killed on Tuesday night along with Yusor Mohammad, his wife, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, her sister, was a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Dentistry. He was heavily involved with Project Refugee Smiles.
He made the following video explaining the initiative, and had planned to travel to Rihaniya, Turkey, this summer to work with refugee children and local dentists.
In the two days following Barakat's death, Project Refugee Smiles has raised more than $235,000, far surpassing its initial goal of $20,000. More than 5,000 people have contributed to the fundraiser, and more than 150 people have commented on the organization's Facebook page expressing their condolences and encouraging continued support of Barakat's mission.
Isra Chakar is the project advocacy and outreach coordinator for Syria Relief and Development, an organization that works alongside the Syrian American Medical Society. Chakar told BuzzFeed News that she only knew Barakat in a professional capacity, but that his dedication to the charity was palpable.
"He definitely had a humanitarian passion," she said. "It was obvious that he was one of their most passionate advocates."
She said Barakat was the one responsible for facilitating a partnership with UNC School of Dentistry and the Syrian American Medical Society, and encouraged faculty to support the project.
Barakat had previously traveled to Gaza with other organizations to do similar work in dental relief.
Each $1,000 raised could support a local dental clinic for one month. In light of the triple homicide, the organization not yet to discussed how the surplus funds will be allocated.
"This is all fresh. We are still trying to process the tragedy and evaluate what the next steps will be," she said.
"It's sad that Deah's life ended too soon, but I'm glad to see that his legacy will carry on."
CORRECTION—Project: Refugee Smile is housed under the Syrian American Medical Society. An earlier version of this article stated that affiliated with Syria Relief and Development.
Tamerra Griffin is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based Nairobi, Kenya.
Contact Tamerra Griffin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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