Help Disaster Relief
by Sarah Burrough
fter a 6.0 earthquake leveled sections of Quindio, Colombia in late January, despondency replaced shock as the death toll climbed to nearly 1,000. Thousands more who were injured urgently needed attention. Power and water lines were destroyed; what was once known as downtown was mostly rubble. As with most other major natural disasters, the regions they hit are seldom ready to withstand such forces of nature. When hurricanes ravaged Central America and the Caribbean region last fall, neither area was prepared for the worst. The destruction was immense, killing nearly four times as many people as the Colombian quake.
In Nicaragua alone, Hurricane Mitchthe deadliest storm to hit the region in more than two centuriescaused days of torrential downpour and winds. Rivers coursed where roads had been. Shells of homes stood in water; possessions were destroyed or swept away. Hundreds of thousands went homeless. The water supply was contaminated; food and medical supplies were in critical demand. An estimated 3,400 died.
Volunteers from nations around the globe have responded to the SOSes; these and other disaster-stricken regions have received assistance from groups ranging from the Red Cross to the United Nations, each providing their own unique services.
Among the volunteers have been teams of Scientology Volunteer Ministers, who can be found on the scene of disaster relief efforts throughout the world to assist shocked, bereaved and wounded victims and help in reconstruction efforts.
In each stricken area, Volunteer Ministers have joined in immediate efforts to help bring food, water and supplies to the thousands left homeless.
The Volunteer Ministers have then started training groups of workers and volunteers in delivering assists, highly effective procedures which help relieve pain and suffering. Assists enable an individual to restore communication with his own body, his environment, and with others. Simple to learn, assists were developed by Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard, and enjoy wide application by people from all walks of life.
One of the most commonly used assists is the touch assist, through which a person is put into communication with injured or ill parts of his body and which, when used in addition to first aid or other medical handlings, speeds up the healing process.
Another assist is the locational, which helps a disoriented, confused, or stunned individual get back in touch with his surroundings and others by orienting him to them. In times of severe emergencies, this can be particularly important to help a person to pull out and start helping others in the disaster.
These were among the assist procedures used in Colombia, where the Volunteer Ministers started with helping exhausted paramedic teams and drivers of 70 trucks which had been carrying supplies into the stricken areas for hours on end.
During this traumatic experience, we have experienced as a group difficult and stressful moments, feeling that even our hope was disappearing, that peoples lives were slipping through our hands, said Claudia Pachaeco Posada on behalf of a paramedic team in Armenia.
Our only support came from ourselves. As we refuged ourselves in prayer and tears, a group of Scientology Volunteer Ministers came to us with the ability of giving us physical and mental aid, giving us new energy to continue on, allowing us to achieve optimum performance and clarity in carrying out our functions. Thanks to them, we continued to serve and aid all the people who need us as well as serving and helping ourselves out.
In a letter of gratitude to the Volunteer Ministers, Johan Alberto Arellancela, Director of the Operative Unit of the Pijao Red Cross, wrote, I thank you in a very special way for the help you have given to my volunteers and to me personally, because the peace and physical and spiritual relief allows us to continue on with our difficult labor. Arellancela urged the Volunteer Ministers to keep going with their work.
The Volunteer Ministers work has been felt throughout the region. The effectiveness of the assists, stated Gildardo Marulanda Florez, Town Mayor of Pijao in Quindao, led to a formidable result of mental relief and relaxation that has made it immensely more possible for us to carry out our work.
The Volunteer Ministers have trained others to deliver assists, including in Colombia, members of the Civil Defense Department, 200 police, leaders of the Boy Scouts, and scores of others. More than 500 people trained in the delivery of assists have since helped countless people.
Results from the relief efforts have been apparent: reports of expedited recovery and imporved response on the part of victims, and more people focused on the massive reconstruction job ahead.
In Nicaragua, Volunteer Ministers trained teams of the Civil Defense, the Movement of Disarmament, Peace and Liberty (MDPL), fire service and other workers and volunteers. The hundreds of volunteers trained in turn helped bring relief to thousands of hurricane victims in villages and refugee camps.
We heard from many people that the volunteers had excellent results, said Major Urbina, personal assistant to Colonel Jose David Garcia, head of the Civil Defense of Nicaragua. We look forward to continuing with the program.
Dr. Eddie Lopez, Coordinator of Health Projects for the MPDL in Nicaragua, is also looking forward to the next phase of coordinated efforts with the Volunteer Ministers. We see very good results with them, he said, and we look forward to continuing in the followup program to get many more volunteers trained in the assist techniques.
Similar relief efforts were conducted in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Georges left hundreds dead and thousands more homeless throughout the Caribbean.
In Canovanos, a team of Volunteer Ministers set up an emergency relief center, and working with the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Administration, helped to get other relief resources into place. VMs and Churches of Scientology in New York and New Jersey collected almost two tons of food and clothing. With the help of Tower Air and Kiwi Airlines, the items were shipped to the Church of Scientology of Puerto Rico from which they were trucked to areas in need.
Volunteer Ministers from Scientology churches on the eastern U.S. coast also went to Puerto Rico for the first critical days to provide the water, food and supplies to affected areas, and to deliver assists.
Results from the Volunteer Ministers relief efforts in all countries have been apparent: reports of expedited recovery and improved response on the part of victims, and more people focused on the massive reconstruction job ahead.
Grass Roots Movement
Scientology Volunteer Ministers have helped victims of natural and man-made cataclysms from the earthquakes of Sakhalin Island, Los Angeles, and China and the 1998 tidal wave that devastated Papua New Guinea, to the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma federal building.
And while they have been most visible in disaster relief efforts, Volunteer Ministers engage in a wide range of services, from helping to resolve familial and business conflicts, to tutoring of inner-city youth utilizing the study methods of L. Ron Hubbard.
The Volunteer Ministers is a worldwide grass-roots movement open to anyone interested in helping others, said Rita Schwarzgruber, who helps to coordinate the VM activities and runs the toll-free Volunteer Minister Hotline from her office in Los Angeles with the International Hubbard Ecclesiastical League of Pastors (I HELP).
The Volunteer Ministers apply fundamental Scientology techniques which are all available in The Scientology Handbook, an 800-plus page reference work which anyone can use as a how-to guide in addressing a multitude of the problems and turmoils that life presents. Sections of The Scientology Handbook, which each take up a separate subjectsuch as assists for illness and injuries, handling drug abuse, resolving conflicts and remedying learningare also available as booklets. Tens of thousands of copies of the booklets are in circulation in multiple languages.
Whether handling a momentary upset, or an entire community suffering the shock of natural disaster, or widespread social ills like drug abuse or illiteracy, Volunteer Ministers are helping keep alive the spirit of volunteerism and making a difference.
For more information about the Church of Scientology Volunteer Ministers and how they can assist your project or community, contact the Volunteer Ministers Corps, 6331 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 800, Hollywood, CA 90028, or call 1-800-435-7498