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Atlas Week Keynote Address

Thursday, 06 April, 2017

Alison Thompson, Founder of Third Wave Volunteers, will present “Serving Humanity: Start Small, Dream Big, Act Now” at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 6, in the Wool Ballroom at Busch Student Center.

This special event is one of more than nearly 150 activities scheduled for SLU’s Seventeenth Annual Sam and Marilyn Fox Atlas Week Program Saturday, April 1 to Saturday, April 8.

The theme for this year’s program is "Visions for Global Change: Start Where You Are.  Do What You Can." During her visit, Thompson will also participate in a panel discussion, “STL Friends with Haiti:  Visions for Change,” from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 5, in the Sinquefield Stateroom in DuBourg Hall.

 About Alison Thompson:

Alison Thompson is a full-time global humanitarian volunteer.  For the past 17years, she has run refugee camps, field hospitals and resilience command centers in major disaster sites around the world, including Haiti, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Nepal, Greece (Syrian and Iraqi refugees), Turkey and Macedonia.  Her work started on September 11, 2001 when she volunteered as a first responder for nine months following the attacks in New York.

 In 2005, Thompason founded the first Tsunami Early-Warning Disaster Center in Sri Lanka along with a Children’s Learning Center and Tsunami Museum.  In Sri Lanka, where she is fondly known as the “Angel of Galle,” where she worked for many years helping rebuild tsunami-ravaged communities.

 In 2010, Thompson flew to Haiti along with actor Sean Penn and 10 doctors to help after the earthquake.  Together, they managed a 65,000-person internally displaced persons camp and field hospital alongside General Simeon Trombitas and the 82nd Airborne.  For her work, she was later honored with the U.S. Commanders’ “Medal of Excellence” award.  In 2012, she was appointed as the first official Ambassador to the Haitian Ministry of Environment where she works in reforestation, sustainable energy and cholera initiatives.

 For the past 18 months, Thompson has worked tirelessly throughout Greece and on the island of Lesvos, where millions have fled the war zones of Syria and Iraq.  Through her organizationThird Wave Volunteers, she has developed a network of more than 30,000 volunteers, who support and coordinate direct aid for the refugees.  Her latest program is bringing innovative, origami-designed solar lights to illuminate the dark refugee camps.  Her mission is to bring love and light to the refugees and to be a voice for humanity.  She has personally delivered more 15,000 lights to 80,000 refugees.

 In 2010, Alison was awarded the “Order of Australia”, the highest civilian medal given by the Australian government for her volunteerism and her contributions to humanity.  In 2015, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters in the Humanities from Loyola University Chicago.

 About the Atlas Program:

The Atlas Program is designed to recognize the international dimensions of Saint Louis University’s academic programs and to celebrate SLU’s role in international education and service in light of our Jesuit tradition.  One of the main goals of the Atlas Program is to increase awareness of the global issues that confront us today in an effort not only to promote discussion, but also to inspire and inform action. It focuses on what we as global citizens can do to contribute to a better life for all people now and in the future. The Atlas Program is unique in that for one week of the year, it brings together members of the University community to focus on the global challenges that confront us in the 21st century.

 Visit for a full calendar of events. For questions or additional information, contact Michelle Lorenzini at

Alison Thompson