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South Florida Woman Helps Light The Way For Syrian Refugees

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) - A South Florida woman is helping shine a light on the Syrian refugee crisis, literally.

Alison Thompson gives a glimmer of hope while helping save lives.

Thompson, a native of Australia, has never been one to run away from danger.

"I started doing this on September 11th. I raced down there in my roller blades," she said.

As a rescue paramedic, she has seen death and destruction firsthand.

"I've seen so many things in 20 years with so many disasters around the world. Usually there's a beginning, middle and end," she said.

But right now, she sees no end in sight to the influx of Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees fleeing their war-torn homes and making the treacherous journey by boat from Turkey to Greece.

"The things I'm seeing on the shores of Lesbos Greece with all the Syrian, Iraq and Afghanistan refugees fleeing is just shocking," she said. "These refugee boats are flimsy, made of rubber and they're only made to hold from 12 to 20 people and they're cramming 60 to 100 people on these boats."

Thompson recently took a break from her rescue work to spend some time at home in Miami. But now, she's already back overseas, where thousands of refugees have lost their lives. She said the gut-wrenching photo seen around the world of a lifeless boy face down on the shore is a more common sight than she cares to think about.

"After my first trip there, I had so many children dying in my arms, I cried on my way home. I cried for a week here. It was so traumatic that I couldn't save them," she told CBS 4's Lauren Pastrana.

When Thompson isn't using her training as a rescue paramedic with her group of "Third Wave" volunteers, she's busy raising money and gathering supplies for her next trip, specifically, pop-up solar lights.

"They really are lifesavers," she said of the heavy-duty plastic lights that can last for hours.

Thompson said the migrants often arrive in the dead of night, and then, it's a roughly 31-mile walk to the nearest camp through the unknown darkness.

"These little lights lead the way up the mountain, but I also give them at the refugee camps," she said.

The lights, Thompson said, bring so much joy.

"They just kiss the floor and they're in shock that they're in safety. We just reach out and say, 'Look you're safe now'," she said. "There's really not a lot of love left in the world. We just gotta love each other or else we're going to kill each other and there's going to be no one left."

Click Here to donate lights to the refugees.

To see more of what Alison is doing in Greece, check out this video by her friend Chris Morrow.

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