Summary and book reviews of The Third Wave by Alison Thompson

The Third Wave

A Volunteer Story

by Alison Thompson

The Third Wave
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  • Published:
    Jul 2011, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jo Perry

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Book Summary

The Third Wave tells the inspiring story of how volunteering changed Thompson’s life, and provides an invaluable inside glimpse into what really happens on the ground after a disaster—and a road map for what anyone can do to help.

Alison Thompson, a filmmaker living in New York City, was enjoying Christmas with her boyfriend in 2004 when she saw the news reports online: a 9.3 magnitude earthquake had struck the sea near Indonesia, triggering a massive tsunami that hit much of southern Asia. As she watched the death toll climb, Thompson had one thought: She had to go help. A few years earlier, she had spent eight months volunteering at Ground Zero after 9/11. She'd learned then that when disaster strikes, it's not just the firemen and Red Cross who are needed - every single person can make a difference.

With $300 in cash, some basic medical supplies, and a vague idea that she'd go wherever she was needed, Thompson headed to Sri Lanka. Along with a small team of volunteers, she settled in a coastal town that had been hit especially hard and began tending to people's injuries, giving out food and water, playing games with the children, collecting dead bodies, and helping rebuild the local school and homes that had been destroyed. Thompson had intended to stay for two weeks; she ended up staying for fourteen months. She and her team helped start new businesses and set up the first tsunami early-warning center in Sri Lanka, which continues to save lives today.

The Third Wave tells the inspiring story of how volunteering changed Thompson's life. It begins with her first real introduction to disaster relief after 9/11 and ends with her more recent efforts in Haiti, where she has helped create and run, with Sean Penn, an internally-displaced-person camp and field hospital for more than 65,000 Haitians who lost their homes in the 2010 earthquake. In The Third Wave, Thompson provides an invaluable inside glimpse into what really happens on the ground after a disaster - and a road map for what anyone can do to help. As Alison Thompson shows, with some resilience, a healthy sense of humor, and the desire to make a difference, we all have what it takes to change the world for the better.

Chapter 1

My Rollerblades squeaked as I sprinted through yet another set of red lights. I had come five miles but still had two more to go. Over my back hung a bag containing a hefty first aid kit, my old 8mm camera, and a small bottle of Chanel No. 5.

I quickly glanced at the sidewalks filled with people gathered around radios and television sets dragged outside from corner stores, and I picked up speed. As I got closer to my destination, I had to battle my way through crowds of people streaming in the opposite direction. Although they walked in an orderly, quiet fashion, their hair and clothes were covered in white soot, and they held on to one another like invalids. They looked like the victims of the nuclear explosion in Hiroshima, whose black-and-white photos I’d seen in books. There was no color anywhere. People all seemed to be holding cellphones to their ears but none of them were speaking. They were in shock. I turned onto the cobblestone streets, which were less ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Third Wave offers an unvarnished but ultimately uplifting account of Alison Thompson's day-to-day experiences as a relief worker in devastated and dangerous places around the globe... She lets the reader know just what's required in an effective volunteer––optimism, courage, love, and inventiveness––and what isn't––special talents, or lots of money. In The Third Wave Thompson demonstrates that we're all valuable, necessary and deeply important to one another.   (Reviewed by Jo Perry).

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Media Reviews

The Boston Globe

The powerful takeaway of this distinct and heartfelt memoir is that saving and rebuilding lives is not the work of superheroes. ‘Volunteering can happen anywhere at any time and can last for just an hour,’ Thompson writes, later imploring readers to ‘[b]e the brightest light you can be and lead the way in the dark.’ The book vividly epitomizes the Talmudic saying that while one may not be able to finish a huge and ambitious task, it does not mean one should not try.

Publishers Weekly

Readers will marvel at Thompson’s ability to leave her life midstream to help others, clearly relishing the adventure as much as the opportunity to serve.

Kirkus Reviews

An inspiring story demonstrating that there are always ways to help.

Author Blurb Tom Brokaw
In a world of turmoil, The Third Wave is a welcome and inspiring account of what one woman and her friends can accomplish against the greatest odds. Ride this wave and feel better about the generation ready to lead us all ashore.

Author Blurb Edwidge Danticat, author of Brother, I’m Dying
Alison Thompson’s captivating life story and adventures in volunteering make us all want to be better citizens of our planet. We can all contribute, she fearlessly tells us, not just with her soaring words with even more with her inspiring actions.

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Beyond the Book

The Third Wave Film

In 2007 Alison Thompson made a documentary film, also called The Third Wave, about her time volunteering in Sri Lanka for almost a year. The film, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, was also shown in the Presidential jury screening at Cannes in 2008.


Alison Thompson Today
Thompson discovered that volunteering changes lives and now works full-time as a volunteer. After Sri Lanka she worked with Sean Penn in Haiti operating a displaced persons camp, and in 2010 she received The Order of Australia, the highest civilian medal.  She is a co-founder of We Advance, an organization devoted to helping rape victims in Haiti.  More about Thompson at thethirdwavebook.com.

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