Saving the World, One Disaster at a Time
Ever since the World Trade towers fell, Alison Thompson has been volunteering in some of the most dangerous and forsaken corners of the earth.
She goes on a moment’s notice, driven by a desire to help victims of disaster. She takes some clothes, her nursing skills, and her unwavering belief that no matter what or who, “we need to love each other.”
Alison Thompson is drawn to those in need. And like other inspirational icons throughout history, she draws people where ever she goes. Many followed her to New York’s Ground Zero in 2001. Others joined her in post-tsunami Sri Lanka in 2004, and in Haiti after its devastating earthquake in 2010.
These days Alison has her boots on the ground in Greece, helping Syrian refugees. “They’re not fleeing because they’re poor,” she says, “they’re fleeing because they’re being bombed.” She takes off her medical crosses to eliminate any religion issues, and provides medical attention, safety, and love.
Like Florence Nightingale, the original “lady with the lamp,” Alison also hands out collapsible solar lanterns to thousands of displaced Syrian men, women and children who’ve been enduring pitch black nights in makeshift tent cities. How did she pay for the lamps? She crowd-funded them online. Alison approaches every disaster with a can-do enthusiasm – and every human with her figurative “big love hat.”
Alison believes that anyone can volunteer, and that no experience or special knowledge is required to make a positive difference. Her website Third Wave Volunteers states “There is a hero in everyone.” It explains how common sense and compassion are the primary tools of any effective volunteer, whether helping in the U.S. after Hurricane Katrina or Sandy, on the streets of Chicago, or in typhoon-torn Philippines.
It’s this extraordinary selflessness that’s been spreading across the globe and into the hearts of celebrities. Morgan Spurlock signed on to direct “The Third Wave: A Volunteer Story,” when he saw the rough footage of Alison’s experiences in Sri Lanka. And Sean Penn was so moved that he took the film to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.
How did this petite nurse and former math teacher from Australia get to this point? Born the daughter of a preacher in the outskirts of Sydney, Alison moved to Manhattan in 1990. There she worked as an investment banker until she enrolled in NYU’s film school. On September 11, 2001, she became an unofficial first responder in the ashes of the World Trade Center, ignoring FEMA’s instructions to leave the area. For nine months she volunteered at Ground Zero; she had found her calling.