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Volunteers needed to continue late dental student's charitable goals in Turkey

May 18, 2015

By Jean Williams

Deah Barakat made the appeal himself.

Looking directly at the camera, earnestness in his plea, the University of North Carolina's School of Dentistry dental student asked, "Have you ever felt helpless about the situation in Syria, and felt like you can't do anything about it? Well, this is your opportunity to help."

In the YouTube video posted last September, Mr. Barakat explained, "This summer I'm embarking on a trip to Turkey with 10 dentists to help Syrian refugee students in need of urgent dental care. We need your help to raise funds for these supplies and equipment — a hundred percent of which will benefit the refugees."

But before he could see his efforts and dreams come to fruition, Mr. Barakat's life was cut short. On Feb. 10, he was one of three young Muslims killed in a shooting in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Through his efforts, Project Refugee Smiles successfully raised the funds for the trip. Friends have taken up where Mr. Barakat left off and will see the mission through. They seek volunteer dentists to participate this summer in one of two trips to Turkey to help put Mr. Barakat's plan in motion.

"The first group is going from July 29 through Aug. 2," said Ali Heydary, a predental student at North Carolina State University who is coordinating and will volunteer. "And the second trip is going from Aug. 1 through Aug. 5. We will be carrying out this trip annually."

Participating dentists will work with and supervise volunteer dental students during treatments.

For more information and sign-up forms, contact Mr. Heydary at RefugeeSmiles@gmail.com.

"We'll be doing extractions, fillings, root canals and oral hygiene instructions to those most in need," Mr. Barakat said in the video appeal. "We'll also focus on prevention. We'll be passing out toothbrushes and toothpaste within refugee camps so that we can eliminate the problem before it begins. These kids don't have access to the same health care as us, and their prolonged pain can easily be taken care of with the work that we do."

More information also is available at youcaring.com/syriandentalrelief and on Facebook at facebook.com/Projectrefugeesmiles.