25 January 2010
I received an email purporting to be circulating a letter from a woman working as a first responder in Haiti, written to her parents in Australia. The letter, below, is quite moving. After investigating the authenticity of the letter, I decided to reproduce it on my blog.
The author’s name is Alison Thompson. An Australia native, Thompson first went to New York City as an investment banker, but then went to film school at NYU and became an independent film maker.
Thompson first became involved in relief work after the 9-11 attacks in New York City. According to Huffington Post, on September 11, 2001, she rollerbladed to the World Trade Center with a paramedic kit and became a first responder rescue worker.
Then, in 2004 as she was watching news footage of the aftermath of the Tsunami, she felt compelled to go and help in Sri Lanka.
Established Relief agencies were not interested in people without special skills or training, so Ms. Thompson showed up and just started to help on her own.
She and her team became go-to persons for others who also showed up to help. The site where she began her work became Peraliya refugee camp. She and a team of four others stayed and ran it for fifteen months.
She filmed an independent documentary about her experience in Sri Lanka, entitled The Third Wave. For her work in Sri Lanka, she is scheduled to be the recipient of a 2010 Medal of the Order of Australia award, for her "service to humanitarian aid, particularly the people of the Peraliya region of Sri Lanka following the Boxing Day 2004 Tsunami."
The letter she writes on 24 January 2010 reveals some of the horror as well as the hope of what is happening in Haiti. It reminds us to pray not only for the people of Haiti, for also the rescue workers and others who are helping the people, and for the future for all of them.
Hi mum and dad –
I won’t be around when they announce my award on January 26th. I am with Sean Penn, diana jenkins, Oscar and 15 doctors embedded in the 82 airbourne ( USA) Dante would describe it as hell here. There is no food and wAter and hundreds dying daily. The aid is all bottlenecked and not reaching here . The other day i assisted with amputation ( holding them down) while they used a saw to cut a young boys leg off with no pain killers. Today I went with a strike force and army patrol in hummers into the streets and walked 5 miles through the camps set up on every street corner ..sewage and bodies stench is everywhere. As i attend to a patient 30 people crowd around me and it’s hard to breath. I nearly fainted today as the sewage smell went straight down my throat. I went white and dizzy but couldn’t sit down as sewage is running through the streets. There is much infection and it feels like the job is too big. No antibiotics anywhere. Good news, today our new york doctors evacuated 18 patients with spinal injuries out to miami and we’re all so excited. Our mash unit is in the 82 air base overlooking a refugee camp of over 50000 people. The refugees start singing Christian songs at 4 am and line up for food until the army hands it out at 8 am ( thats if there is any food) On the first night I was in the nearby jungle camping under the stars with my team and woke up to the beautiful music drawing me to them. I thought it was a church and we went to find it and came across the 82 airbourne camp and the refugee camp.( that’s how we ended up here) as it wasn’t safe to stay where we were even though we had our own security force. We are totally self suffient with food gas and medicines and have a private donor (Diana Jenkins who was a refugee in camps in Bosnia as a child – her family died of starvation in the camps. ) Sean Penn is here purely as a volunteer and is cutting through bureaucracy to get aid moving and food water and medicines to the people. There is no agenda but to save lives. Helicopters fly over head and it feels like vietnam. That night 50,000 people sung me to sleep and they sing every night for the world to save them. There is always hope but she’s not here right now.
My writing is a mess as it’s on iPhone and keeps changing my words and the generator is on for a few hours but I know it’s important to tell the world. Please send to any press who may call or family and friends.