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Dr. Alison Thompson    

Humanitarian & Author of The Third Wave

Dr Alison Thompson - is a full time global humanitarian volunteer. Her work started on the Sept 11th 2001 attacks in New York, where she volunteered as a first responder for nine months. Alison has run internally displaced persons camps in Sri Lanka, Haiti and around the world and was appointed as the first official Ambassador to the Haitian Ministry of Environment in 2012 where she works in reforestation and cholera initiatives. Alison is fondly known as the “Angel of Galle” in Sri Lanka and the "Angel of Light" in Nepal and in 2015 was honored at Loyola Chicago University with an Honorary ‘Doctorate of Letters’, in the ‘Humanities’, where she also gave the commencement speech. For the past 7 months, Alison has worked tirelessly on the island of Lesvos, Greece in the epicenter of the Syrian, Iraqi and Afghani refugee European migration, where over 800,000 refugees have fled war zones by the sea in Turkey. In Greece, Alison is working as a volunteer paramedic resuscitating hundreds of drowning victims and caring for refugees with hypothermia and war wounds . Alison has developed a network of over 10,000 volunteers in which hundreds have deployed to Lesvos where she supports and coordinates aid groups and direct aid in her ongoing work for the refugees. Her mission is to bring Love and Light to Lesvos and to be a VOICE for HUMANITY for the suffering of the refugees she witnesses daily. She describes those first moments with the refugees as the most purest form of love where two humans meet eye to eye and hug without borders, politics or religion.

Her latest program is bringing in an innovative origami designed upcycled PET LED solar light. It is a paper thin light and folds up into a pocket size, it is solar powered and gives eight to ten hours of light. This is critical as refugees find themselves in most cases, in the dead of night, freezing with a thirty one mile walk upon landing on the shores in Lesvos. These lights are basically life savers and guides them out of darkness into light and safety, as they make their way to the processing camps and on though Europe. Alison has personally delivered over 10,000 lights to the refugees.

In 2004 Thompson flew to Sri Lanka after the tsunami devastated the country — and remained there for two years developing and operating a field hospital, rebuilding a village and a local school. There she Founded the first Tsunami Early-Warning Disaster Center along the Indian ocean and a Children’s Learning Center and Tsunami Museum. Her award-winning documentary The Third Wave, chronicles her volunteer experience in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami and was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in a Presidential Jury Screening presented by Sean Penn and Bono. She followed up with a book, The Third Wave: A Volunteer Story. In 2010, Thompson flew to Haiti along with Sean Penn and ten doctors to help after the earthquake. Together, they managed a 70,000-person IDP camp and field hospital alongside General Simeon Trombitas and the 82nd Airborne who honored her with the US Commanders 'Medal of Excellence' Award. In 2010 she was awarded the Order of Australia, the highest civilian medal given by the Australian Government and Queen Elizabeth II, for her volunteerism and her contributions to mankind. In Haiti she also co-founded We Advance, an organization dedicated to combating gender-based violence and advancing the health and safety of women and children throughout the dangerous Cite Soleil slums. — After Hurricane Sandy in New York, Thompson created and managed The Third Wave Command Center in the Rockaways NY, supporting thousands of affected civilians with aid and resilience campaigns and then went onto work in the Philippines with Typhoon Haiyan followed by the Nepal earthquake disaster of 2015 where she delivered thousands of solar lights to remote destroyed mountain areas. For the past 5 years Alison has organized "I am Peace" student led marches in the streets of Chicago to draw attention to the rampart gun violence disaster. With simplicity and humility, Thompson inspires everyone to service and to take action just as she has: as an everyday, average individual. She tailors her message on how ‘anyone can volunteer’, from a global scope to our own backyards and that “everyone is needed” As she continues to change the world – she believes “It is easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time but its Leadership to be in the wrong time at the right time.”

Speech Topics

It Starts with the Lemonade Stand: An Inspiring Introduction to Volunteerism (High School)

Billions of dollars are consistently raised to assist philanthropies of all sorts, yet more often than not, that money ends up sitting in banks for months on end to ultimately land in the wrong hands. In this presentation geared toward high school students, Ambassador Alison Thompson challenges her audience to come up with alternative business models that make actual aid a priority rather than an outcome dependent on how much money can be raised.

Sharing stories from her own experience providing aid in Sri Lanka, Haiti, New Orleans, and New York City, Ambassador Thompson informs high school students how they can make a difference within their own communities.

Sustainable Haiti: Real Solutions

When disaster strikes a particular region of the world, we have a moral obligation to help those affected. In providing our assistance, however, it is vitally important that our ultimate objective be to get victims back on their feet.

Based on her experience volunteering in Haiti following its 2010 earthquake, Ambassador Alison Thompson outlines clear and simple solutions for getting the country back into shape by sustaining itself, rather than relying on outside aid.

Women Issues & Gender-Based Violence: Solutions

As co-founder of We Advance, an organization dedicated to advancing the health, safety, and well-being of women and children throughout Haiti, Ambassador Alison Thompson presents this inspirational keynote on empowering women throughout the world. In a message geared toward both sexes, she instructs women on how to arm themselves and advises men on how to protect their women.

Volunteerism: A Call to Action Redefining Heroism (College)

Ambassador Alison Thompson has long petitioned Congress to pass a measure requiring college students to volunteer for a month in order to graduate. Firmly believing that “anyone can hand out water or give out a hug,” she urges young men and women to devote some of their time to a cause larger than themselves — even if it begins in the dorm.


Miami medic heads Syrian refugee relief operation Greek islands
Saving lives amid worlds worst humanitarian crisis.
Love on the island dod Lesvos: SKALA SIKAMINEAS, GREECE — Standing in the harbor of this Greek village on the island of Lesbos, I am holding yet another soaking wet little girl with blue lips. Minutes before she had been sinking in the deadly Aegean sea crossing from Turkey to Greece. Her parents had fled Syria with only a cellphone and cash after their house had been bombed and ISIS had shot three generations of their relatives in cold blood. My heart swells as I spot tiny specks of orange lifejackets bobbing like oranges in a low-riding boat. The rescue whistles blow, and volunteers from all nations jump into action. The refugees are closer now, and 50 feet from shore the screams of terror begin as two panicked refugees jump out, setting off a crushing stampede as children and babies are catapulted from the boat into the dark sea. Most Syrians don’t swim. I catch sight of a small body in a puffy pink jacket floating away and I plunge into the water to reach her in borrowed time. I struggle to plant my feet on the slippery rocks below as the weight of her lifejacket and wet clothes strain my lazy muscles to work even harder. By the shore, volunteers call for stretchers in five different languages, but I am focused on one child’s heartbeat. Finding no pulse, I fumble at her clothes, free the airway and pump her tiny chest looking for life. After two cycles of CPR, water sputters from her mouth and I turn her over to allow the sea to escape. She is not in good condition, but she is alive. Children and babies are quickly being passed, volunteer to volunteer, to the safety of shore, and we smile and hug the families who were almost swallowed by the sea. Back on the shore, I reach for a bottle of bubbles to help calm another restless baby and eye the two teenage girls who have been raped by ISIS. They remain silent, and their dark lashes spy my every move. With new eyes, I scope the refugee journey of heading toward the “promised land,” but finding only paper towns. In Lesbos, I have seen the face of all our gods, where humans embrace and pain is absorbed into a love without borders. Volunteers work day and night in rain and snow, huddled together around fires and in rental cars, tracking the boats and sending rescue teams out into the angry sea. We rush another hypothermic pregnant woman along the darkened shoreline now lit with magic bright solar lights and wait and pray, always ready with emergency blankets and food and dry clothes. The volunteers share jubilation in the safe rescues — and bottomless despair when we learn they have capsized and everyone has drowned. After five months of volunteering in Lesbos, my brain can’t solve the larger problems of a world where leaders are also struggling to find answers. I do know that I can help these suffering humans, but I am not naïve enough to think that a terrorist couldn’t get through any border or inspire people across many nations. Syria’s civil war is the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. Half the country’s pre-war population — more than 11 million people — have been killed or forced to flee their homes. Last year, more than 800,000 Syrians arrived by sea and in them I have met beautiful, educated families who are just like us. When did we become so fearful? The Sept. 11 attacks taught me not to live in fear or give in to terrorism. If the world turns its back on the refugees, they will be forced to return to Syria and then ISIS wins. Where has all the love gone in the world? We are not being asked to go shave our heads and become monks, but to imagine a world where everyone does their part, so that the karma banks will overflow with blue-chip stocks of compassion and we all become “billionaires on the inside.” Imagine a world where souls are more valuable than money. Isn’t that the way it was meant to be? It’s easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but now humanity asks us to transform fear into love. To be in the wrong place at the right time. Alison Thompson is a paramedic and the founder of Third Wave Volunteers working with Syrian refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos. She is the author of The Third Wave and lives in Coconut Grove. Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article58883703.html#storylink=cpy

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