A Colorful Story by Ozlem Solu
Would you believe that my life changed on an airplane? It was just like in the movies. I was flying to the States for the first time in my life to visit my son, Deren who was studying at Washburn University in Kansas. It was a long flight and I was very excited to see my son for the first time in months. Movies and sleep kept me occupied to a point. To pass the time, I started talking to the person sitting next to me. It turned out that my companion for the flight, Turhan needed someone to talk to as well but for a different reason- he was returning from his father’s funeral in Istanbul.
As we started to chat, I discovered that his family had a remarkable history. His paternal grandfather, Şerafettin Solu was one of countless heroes who fought side by side with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk for many years including the Turkish War of Independence. His tales of war and swords remaining from those days are pride of the Solu family and their joy. His maternal grandfather on the other side was one of the very first accomplished doctors of the Republic of Turkey who was committed to rebuilding the Turkish society right after the Independence War.
With such ancestors, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Turhan’s father also made a mark on the world. Prof. Dr. Sami Solu, my father-in-law whom I never met but always admired since I first heard about him on that plane ride, was born and raised in Ankara. He became a doctor in Turkey and moved to the States after completing his studies. He specialized on urgent care and worked as an emergency doctor until his retirement. Even though he built his career abroad, he always kept Turkey as a part of his life and traveled there often. During his visits, he realized how the emergency care practice was a bit behind in his home country compared to the States. Determined to close the gap, he took the lead in establishing the concept of emergency room and the emergency call system, otherwise known as- 112, which saved millions of lives in Turkey. Along with his contributions in the medical field, Süleyman Sami established a trust with a mission to make his legacy live forever in a community foundation in the States. Sadly, he passed away before he could decide on which issues he’d like to support.
The more Turhan talked about his family, the more I admired them. You won’t be surprised to hear that we got married a year after that plane ride and I moved to Michigan without hesitation. It was around the same time when Turhan and his siblings were discussing how to manage their late father’s trust. Since they moved to the States at a very early age and were raised there, they never had the connection their father had with Turkey and eventually, thought about giving back in the States. But after hearing about my father-in-law from them for years, I knew that I shared his attachment to Turkey. So I explained to them the social challenges that Turkey was facing and what we can do together to change these conditions. But most importantly, I introduced them to an organization that I’m grateful for beyond words: Çağdaş Yaşamı Destekleme Derneği. As a single mother, I’ve been through many obstacles raising my son and at times struggled to afford quality education for him. It was ÇYDD who gave us a hand during those hard times. Deren received a scholarship throughout his college education in Turkey from ÇYDD. As an excellent student with top grades, he won a scholarship from Washburn University and completed college with triple majors. He is currently a graduate student as well as a teaching assistant at the Sabancı University. He also has been a volunteer member of ÇYDD for European Union Projects.
As I can’t wait to see what Deren will accomplish next, I’ll always be grateful to ÇYDD for their support when we needed it the most. Inspired by our story, Turhan and his siblings decided to support ÇYDD with the Trust established by their father at a local community foundation. Since then, we’ve been providing scholarships to six medical students in the name of Prof. Dr. Süleyman Sami Solu. And it was TPF who turned this dream into a reality by working as a bridge between us, ÇYDD and SLO Community Foundation. I couldn’t be more happy that I took that plane ride five years ago, which introduced me to an amazing family that I married into.