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Alison  Thompson

Alison Thompson

Humanitarian, Director & Author of The Third Wave


Dr/Ambassador 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. Since then Alison has run refugee camps, field hospitals and resilience command centers in every major disaster around the world for the past 17 years; including Haiti, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Nepal, USA, Greece, Turkey, Macedonia and the Syrian Refuges crisis. Read More >

In 2005 she founded the first Tsunami Early-Warning Disaster Center in Sri Lanka along with a Children’s Learning Center and Tsunami Museum. In 2012 Alison was appointed as the first official Ambassador to the Haitian Ministry of Environment where she works in reforestation, sustainable energy and cholera initiatives. Alison recently represented Haiti at the Cop 22 UN Climate change meetings in Marrakesh where she was successful in helping Haiti ratify the Paris Agreement.

In Sri Lanka Alison is fondly known as the “Angel of Galle” and in 2015 she 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 18 months, Alison has worked tirelessly throughout Greece and on the island of Lesvos, in the epicenter of the Syrian refugee Crisis, where millions have fled the war zones of Syria and Iraq. In Greece Alison works as a volunteer paramedic caring for refugees with hypothermia and war wounds and has developed a network of over 30,000 volunteers, through her organization Third Wave Volunteers, who support and coordinate direct aid for the refugees. Her mission is to bring love and light to the refugees and to be a voice for humanity for the suffering. Her latest program is bringing in an innovative origami designed solar puff light to the refugees in the dark camps of the Syrian borders. Alison has personally delivered over 15,000 lights to 80,000 refugees.

In 2010, Alison flew to Haiti along with actor Sean Penn and ten doctors to help after the earthquake. Together, they managed a 65,000-person IDP camp and field hospital alongside General Simeon Trombitas and the 82nd Airborne who later honored her with the US Commanders ‘Medal of Excellence’ award. Alison 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 Cite Soleil slums. In 2010 she was awarded the 'Order of Australia', the highest civilian medal given by the Australian government and Queen Elizabeth the 2nd, for her volunteerism and her contributions to mankind.

Her award-winning documentary, The Third Wave, chronicles her volunteer experience in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami and was screened at the 2008 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. 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.”

Her motto is "It’s easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it's Leadership to be in the wrong place at the right time." Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

Giving Light to Syrian Refugees

TEDx: Everyone’s Needed, No Skills Required

Just Do Something - Alison Thompson from the Beaches of Lesvos

Relief in Action

Loyola University Chicago College of Arts & Sciences Commencement Speech

Speech Topics

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.

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. Read More >

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. Read Less ^

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.

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. Read More >

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. Read Less ^