Dr. Alison Thompson’s humanitarian rescue and response team of volunteers was born out of the rubble of the twin towers’ collapse in New York City in 2001. Now she has a team of 10,000 volunteers who hop on planes around the world and go to disaster zones to deliver aid.
Her volunteer rapid-response group is called Third Wave Volunteers and deploys to natural and man-made disasters around the globe.
“Third Wave Volunteers is a movement of volunteerism around the world based on the concept that everyone is needed,” says Thompson, who was born in Australia and now lives in Miami. “It is our hope to inspire and motivate people to reach deep inside themselves to find their own active role as a volunteer.”
Thompson’s motto, “There is a hero in everyone,” is a spirit that’s been on full display during the volunteer rescue efforts in Houston over the past week.
It’s something Thompson says she’s experienced on similar occasions during other global disasters over the past decade. In some disasters, the needs are immediately obvious, while in others they’re harder to see at first.
For example, while Thompson was responding to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, she discovered the need for solar-powered lights as a security measure because women were being raped in hospitals and in tents at night. So Thompson made it her mission to bring solar lights with 8-hour batteries to every hospital and refugee camp.
“The rapist doesn’t go into a room or tent that has light in it,” Thompson told me.
Thompson then turned her attention to the Syrian refugee crisis as it intensified in 2015. She went to Lesvos, Greece to help the refugees landing on the shores of the island. For the past couple of years, Thompson’s team has been going to aid Syrian refugees who arrived at the European borders.
“It’s so big, it’s so spread out. There is about half a million people that have been killed. Five million have fled and about 6 million people still in the country internally displaced. So we had the idea when they were arriving by boats to Greece, to go there on the shores to welcome them and show them love. And just help them, help feed them and give them solar lights,” Thompson said.
According to the UNHCR, “Over 5 million people have fled Syria since 2011, seeking safety in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and beyond. Millions more are displaced inside Syria….”
Tune into The Feed for our full report on Third Wave Volunteers.