A total of 475 volunteers provided 1,918 hours of service to the local community during the University of North Carolina (UNC) Adams School of Dentistry’s sixth annual day of service. Known as DEAH DAY for Directing Efforts And Honoring Deah and Yusor, the event honors the memory of the late Deah Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha.
Barakat, a member of the school’s class of 2017, and Abu-Salha, an incoming member of the DDS class of 2019, were two of three victims of a fatal shooting in February 2015. The third victim was Razan Abu-Salha, a sophomore at North Carolina State University and Yusor’s younger sister.
“I am incredibly inspired by the commitment of our student body to continue to memorialize the lives of Deah, Yusor, and Razan despite the unique challenges presented by COVID-19,” said UNC Adams School of Dentistry dean Scott De Rossi, DMD, MBA.
“Even in this new and unusual environment, they found ways to take care of our local community by cleaning up trails, providing virtual oral health education and free oral healthcare, among others,” said De Rossi.
“I am proud to be dean of a school that values passionate service of its community so highly and continue to be humbled by the collective heart of service at the UNC Adams School of Dentistry,” De Rossi said.
This year’s efforts spanned 35 sites across four counties and nine cities in North Carolina, including six virtual volunteer opportunities.
For example, volunteers provided free dental care in clinics across the Triangle, including the CAARE clinic in Durham, the Vidas de Esperanza Clinic in Siler City, and Carolina Dentistry in Chapel Hill. Volunteers at the DYOR clinic, named for Deah and Yusor in Raleigh, provided $4,312 worth of care to seven patients.
Volunteers also delivered food with Meals on Wheels and seeded crops with Food Shuttle Farms, cleared nature trails with the NC Botanical Garden and Ellerbee Creek Watershed, arranged and restocked food bank shelves, and more.
“The motto #LiveLikeDeah, which encourages us to not only serve our communities but also work towards inclusivity, is something I truly believe in and aligns closely to my personal values,” said fourth-year dental student and DEAH DAY co-coordinator Rosa Munoz-Aldape.
“When we celebrate DEAH DAY, I hope our volunteers are able to renew their commitment to serving our communities and helping create spaces where we support each other regardless of our backgrounds,” said Munoz-Aldape.
The full impact of the day of service included:
- Three acres of UNC-Chapel Hill campus cleaned
- 59 bags of trash collected along two miles of shoreline
- 108 bags of personal protective equipment distributed
- 295 meals delivered to those in need
- 500 bags of groceries delivered
- 1,137 plants planted
- 2,700 pounds of food packaged
- 4,000 bags of sand (approximately $70,000) packed for Ronald McDonald House fundraiser
- 10,000 diapers wrapped
The annual DEAH DAY talent show was held virtually, benefitting the Dental Student Health Action Coalition clinic, where Deah volunteered as a dental student, and the DYOH clinic.
This year’s DEAH DAY kickoff event was a presentation through Our Three Winners, by Deah’s sister, Dr. Suzanne Barakat, who spoke to attendees about Islamophobia and inclusivity.
“This year’s efforts continue the legacy of Deah, Yusor, and Razan by finding creative ways to continue to celebrate their lives despite COVID-19,” said Munoz-Aldape.
“In addition to some of our traditional sites, we were able to host new virtual and remote options such as card writing and discussing dental careers with grade school students. We had an incredible turnout, and I am incredibly thankful to our team and everyone who participated this year,” said Munoz-Aldape.
Barakat and Abu-Salha had been married six weeks at the time of their deaths. They had planned to travel to Turkey to provide dental care to Syrian refugees and open a dental practice together following their graduations.
Following their deaths, students at the Adams School of Dentistry wanted to establish something that would represent them and encourage future students to similarly give back to their communities. The inaugural DEAH DAY was held on September 15, 2015, seven months after the shooting.