Feeding Their Legacy: Charity Efforts Honor Chapel Hill Shooting Victims

Mar 5, 2015

Volunteers at the Islamic Association of Raleigh gathered enough food and cash donations to serve nearly 22,000 meals to people in need.
Credit Nisma Gabr

Updated: Monday, March 9

Organizers say this weekend's food drive to honor the three students murdered in Chapel Hill last month was a success. Razan and Yusor Abu-Salha and Deah Barakat had been known for their community service efforts. Volunteers at the Islamic Association of Raleigh collected nearly 16,000 non-perishable food items. Organizer Nisma Gabr says, with cash donations, the local drive should be able to provide nearly 22,000 meals to people in need.  The national Feed Their Legacy food drive will continue through March 27. 

Friday, March 6: 

Numerous charitable efforts have been organized to honor the three young people shot in Chapel Hill last month.
Credit deah.barakat / facebook.com

  In the month since a gunman took the lives of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, there has been an outpouring of support for their families. But their deaths have also inspired a number of charitable efforts organized to honor their memories.

Childhood friend Nisma Gabr says Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, her sister, Razan Abu-Salha,19, and Yusor's husband, Deah Barakat, 23, were devoted to serving others.

"They were so generous and they were also very humble," says Gabr, who's helping to organize a food drive in their memory this weekend.

"And hopefully they can be inspirations for other people to do good as well."

Three Winners

Gabr says community service and giving to charity are important components of the Muslim faith. She says the three slain students carried out the Prophet Mohammed's teaching.

"He taught us that we have to, you know, give back to others and help those in need. There's a hadith or a famous saying that our prophet taught us, 'None of you truly believe until you wish for your brother what you wish for yourself.'"

The three volunteered at various local Islamic charities, as well as Habitat for Humanity. The Barakat family is of Syrian descent, and the Abu-Salha family is Palestinian. The Abu-Salha sisters and Barakat worked to help refugees from those countries adjust to life in North Carolina.

Deah Barakat had been a student at the UNC School of Dentistry, and was planning a dental relief trip with other dental students to treat Syrian refugees this summer. At the time of his death, he had raised almost $20,000 for the Refugee Smiles Project. At the time of this post, the website had raised nearly $500,000.

Barakat also worked locally to provide dental and nutritional relief to homeless people. One of the last posts on his Facebook page was a photo of his team distributing toothbrushes, toothpaste and food in Durham.

In the weeks before his death, Deah Barakat volunteered distributing dental care products and food to Durham's homeless.
Credit Deah Barakat / Facebook

Feeding Their Legacy

After the shooting, this photo inspired a national food drive to honor Barakat and the Abu-Salha sisters. The Feed Their Legacy campaign aims to collect 100,000 cans of food by the end of the month.

Canned food can be dropped off Saturday, from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. at the Islamic Association of Raleigh, 808 Atwater St.

 Nisma Gabr is organizing the local effort with a number of inter-faith organizations.  She says anyone who'd like to donate cans of food can deliver them to the Islamic Association of Raleigh on Saturday between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. She says she hopes donors will stick around for a bit and get to know one another.

"When you unite with people who feel the same way as you and doing it for a good cause, I'm pretty sure it's going to give everybody some sort of feeling of hope and relief, and it's going to make everybody feel like they're doing something on behalf of our three winners: Deah, Yusor and Razan."  

That phrase, "Our Three Winners" has been used to describe the three young people, who were alumni of NC State University. NCSU has created an endowment to offer scholarships in the names of the three former students in perpetuity.

A mural at NC State University honor slain alumni Razan Abu-Salha, Yusor Abu-Salha and Deah Barakat.
Credit OurThreeWinners / Facebook

United Muslim Relief has launched OurThreeWinners.org, which allows visitors to post photos and share memories of the Abu-Salha sisters and Barakat. It is also raising money for a trust intended to serve the poor and offer dental care to people in need.

Habitat Wake has announced it will build  two houses in honor of the three former volunteers: One in Wake County, and one in Jordan on the border with Syria.