Caleb Thompson aids in Turkey earthquake relief

CRHS's Caleb Thompson found adventure in his year abroad
Posted on 02/16/2023
This is the image for the news article titled CRHS's Caleb Thompson found adventure in his year abroad

(Photos courtesy Gina Thompson)
Caleb Thompson was looking for an adventure for his senior year. As the Coal Ridge High School senior enters his second semester studying abroad, you might say that adventure has found him.Caleb Thompson

Caleb is part of the Rotary International Youth Exchange and when faced with the decision of where to spend his year abroad, his choice was Turkey.

“My family traveled a lot  when I was younger and we went to a lot of places with a lot of different backgrounds, but we did not travel to the Arab world. I really wanted that experience,” said Caleb in an interview from Adana, Turkey.

It was the rich history and robust cultural impact of the region that drew him there.

“I’m fascinated with Turkish history, because of its placement and its significance in Islam and Christianity and the Ottoman Empire,” he said. Turkey is located at a point where the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe are closest to each other. 

Caleb has spent the last six-months in Adana, Turkey, far from the European influenced Istanbul, and much closer to the Syrian border. He has become fluent in Turkish, developed friendships and is becoming deeply assimilated into Turkish culture with his host family. On February 6, his educational adventure took a dramatic turn - two significant earthquakes shook Caleb and his host family who were sleeping in their tenth floor apartment.

Building“I was actually awake at the time of the first earthquake,” said Caleb. “I had woken up and I could feel the ground start to shake a little bit and then it started to get stronger and stronger and that's when I started to get scared.”

The magnitude 7.8 earthquake and subsequent 7.7 quake 12-hours later have left a death toll of over 40,000 between Syria and Turkey.

“We were just so terrified. My host family and I held each other tight in one of the doorways and the building was really shaking. The building codes in Turkey are strict but it doesn't mean that people follow them necessarily, so my main thoughts during the actual experience were just that I hoped that whoever built this building followed the building codes.”

Since then, Caleb has been giving back to his adopted community and country. His diligent attention to the Turkish language and culture has aided him greatly during this time of crisis and he wasted no time jumping in to help.

In the last week Caleb has carried pillows and blankets to tent cities, learned and completed elementary electrical work, spent several days working in a sandwich assembly line, and spent a day translating and assisting aid agencies at the Adana airport.

“I have set up over 30 astra tents with some teams. None of us knew anything about how to set up a tent like this. They were just dropped on us and we were told ‘good luck.’ I tried my best to learn how to build one as fast as possible and then just kind of led other people into how to build the tents.”

Now, he and his mother, Coal Ridge math teacher Gina Thompson, are working on opening up channels to get needed financial help to the area.

“We’ve been working on the logistics of figuring out how we can do a good fundraiser that will make a difference, because there's so many places you should not donate to. It's really a tragedy when people just start stealing things from people's apartments. it's just been a really bad situation.” 

Caleb and Gina are working through the Rotary Club of Glenwood Springs Turkey Disaster Relief Fund. Donations can be made at any Alpine Bank branch. Gina will be selling baklava at the Coal Ridge-Aspen basketball game Friday for donations to the fund and there will be an opportunity to win ski tickets or other smaller prizes for donations to the fund. 

The experience, understandably, has made a significant impact on Caleb. He hopes to return to the region to continue to give back.

“Turkey will always be a part of me. I think in the future I want to study international relations and also study statistics. I’m hoping to be a person that can bring those two things together because it's not that often that international relations students are super interested in analytical thinking. I want to become an expert in learning different languages and different cultures so that I can be a useful person for promoting peace and just overall well-being in this region that I think has not seen a lot of that in the last few years.”

Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2023 Intrado Corporation. All rights reserved.