The Third Wave: An Australian Volunteer’s Story
Alison Thompson with MeiMei Fox, Scribe
Alison Thompson, a film maker / Maths teacher / nurse’s aide describes her experiences as a volunteer working at Ground Zero in America, Sri Lanka after the tsunami and Haiti after the earthquake. Aside from knowledge of first aid, Alison’s most useful ability was her willingness to help when it is needed, regardless of whether it was dangerous, inaccessible (she rollerbladed into Ground Zero) or if she could afford to go there.
Alison sees herself as ‘an everyday civilian with no formal credentials other than the will to help.’ She says: ‘The beauty of volunteering is that you don’t need any skills to give someone a hug or hand out water. Anyone can do it.’ I’m not sure that everyone could do the type of volunteering she talks about though. You need to be pretty tough.
Alison doesn’t provide a rose-tinted version of the work she did. She writes about collecting body parts; the smell of death; being rejected, slandered and threatened by the traumatised people she had helped; the emotional toll on her relationships and the feelings of depression and hopelessness over what she has seen and experienced. She also writes that the work made her stronger, gave her a deeper understanding of humanity and provided her with the best times of her life.
Alison ends her book with information for readers interested in doing this type of volunteer work. She provides information on which organisations to contact, how to prepare for a trip, what vaccinations to have and what to pack. For other readers, who can’t travel, she provides a list of organisations that need donations and / or volunteers. Although, these are American, there are many equivalent organisations in Australia.
The Third Wave is an exciting, confronting book; and a must for people thinking of volunteering overseas.
By Katy Gerner