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David, USA - Relieving medical personal from administration and logistics

(appeared on Scientology Today, 24 February 2010)

Scientology Volunteer Minister David Dempster, a Scotsman who has lived in Clearwater, Florida for the past four years, was on the first Scientology-sponsored charter flight to Haiti on January 16, departing from JFK Airport in New York.   The aircraft transported more than 100 doctors, nurses and EMTs (emergency medical technicians) to Haiti, and a team of Volunteer Ministers to support them in their work.  Five more flights sponsored by Scientologists have provided transport for over 600 medical and support personnel on donated planes from New York, Los Angeles and Miami.  Dempster, who provided urgently needed administrative backup to doctors at two Port-au-Prince hospitals, is back in Florida now, and reflects on his experiences there.

Emmanuel, USA - joining the Scientology Volunteer Ministers in the Dominican Republic

I met Scientology Volunteer Ministers for the first time in the Dominican Republic, Cheryl, Collin and Matt, who had just flown in from Miami. I told them I was from the States and looking to team up with an organization to go to Haiti to assist in any way possible. I was thrilled when Cheryl accepted my request and allowed me to accompany them to Haiti to assist with the relief effort there, considering the fact other organizations such as the Red Cross and UNICEF had not responded to my request to work with them in Haiti.

I knew nothing of the Scientology Religion or what its members believe in. But I wanted to go out there and help; I wanted to make a difference in Haiti.

Julia, USA - The Disaster Relief Effort in Haiti is a global activity

I just got back from nine days in Haiti. People have asked me what it was like but truly it is so hard to put into words.

The Disaster Relief Effort in Haiti is a global activity. There are people and organizations from all over the world working side by side to save the people of Haiti - volunteers, doctors, nurses, military and religious people. It didn’t matter who you were or where you came from before you got to Haiti, while in Haiti you were part of a united team.


Paris, USA - Haiti First Responder Report

Having just returned from Haiti, I would like thank you for all the kind words and messages I have received. I am very grateful for them and for your support and friendship.

My adventure in Haiti was an arduous one but very interesting and worthwhile. I went as a first responder and Scientology Volunteer Minister, along with about 100 other VMs and approx 160 medical personnel on aircraft (737’s) chartered by the IAS (International Association of Scientologists).

Later there were also a couple of small charters out of Miami and of course, John Travolta (along with wife, Kelly Preston) flew his 707 down there with about 20 medical people, some VMs and about 6 tons of supplies and medicine. Additionally, many other Scientologists made their own way to Port au Prince, from faraway places, like Thailand, Scotland, France, Western USA, etc.

One girl spent about ten days getting there from LA, spending time in Miami trying to catch a flight and finally flying to Santo Domingo and taking the difficult overland route to Port au Prince from the Dominican Republic.

I drove my car to Miami with three other VMs. There I picked up the communications gear that I was to install upon arrival. Originally, there was to be a technical guy coming along to set it up, but he never arrived. We spent a few hours at the home of the VMs Mercedes and Bo, who were a tremendous help and very kind to us. We unpacked and briefly tested our satellite phones and satellite data uplinks. Then we drove to the Miami airport and boarded a Vision Airlines charter to Port au Prince.

We arrived late at night on 21Jan10 and were met by some VMs and some trucks. After unloading the baggage and supplies by hand out of the plane’s cargo holds and we got trucked to our base, about half a mile away, along the main (and only) runway of the airport. We pitched tents in the dark, crawled into our sleeping bags and went to sleep. The doctors and nurses we had brought with us were taken to some houses in the city that had been donated by a local Scientologist. A small team of VMs was based at this place - soon to be called “the compound” - to care for them while they were in-country. Our base consisted of a big yellow VM tent that served as our headquarters, kitchen, communication center and supplies storage. Behind it, stretching toward the runway, we had a series of six-man tents for our housing. In the early days, military cargo jets (C17s, etc.) were landing and taking off every few minutes, day and night. The noise level was almost painful and made communication impossible when they passed us.

Sylvain from Thailand: Haiti - Another Tour of Duty

After a few years as a Scientology Volunteer Minister (VM for short, a.k.a. "yellow shirt"), your name moves to the top of the address book. Next to it, it probably says something like "Call if all hell breaks loose". Wouldn't be so bad, except that hell is such a fragile place, these days, and with Haiti's earthquake, phones were ringing off the hook.

At least, that's how I imagine things. As I was packing my bags, I couldn't help but think how things had changed since my first VM operation. First the Tsunami in Thailand and in Banda Aceh, then Yogyakarta's earthquake and more recently the cyclone in Myanmar: I went from wide-eyed "newbie" to regular Scientology Volunteer Minister. I had seen blood, corpses, pain and despair, and it changed me, but more than anything, knowing that I could do something about it changed me. When you know that, you can't just say "That's sad" and flip to the next TV channel.

After the fact, a lot of people ask "What was it like, in Haiti?" so on my way back, I wrote this short (ok, not so short) report to describe my experience in Haiti. It’s written from my point of view only. Readers beware. ;-)

Flying from Thailand to Haiti took me a couple days. First to Los Angeles, and then boarding a charter plane with the rest of the Scientology team to land in Port au Prince in the middle of the night. Coming off straight on the tarmac and unloading your own plane is an interesting experience. No passport control, no metal detectors... and no baggage service. You jump down the ramp and go grab the supplies. Several tons of food and medical equipment and whatnot crammed in the cargo hold which you have to unload by hand, box by box, bag by bag.


Elena, Switzerland/USA - Night shift at the HUEH

“There was an old lady who was so thin you could count her bones. She had probably not been doing well before the earthquake, and although there was really nothing wrong with her medically, the doctor decided to keep her in the hospital, concerned she would die if he discharged her.  She was lying in bed, eyes shut, not eating or reacting to anything at all.  I held her and fed her—tiny pieces of food, piece by piece, hoping it would make a difference.

When I came back the next day, the first thing I saw was this woman, sitting up in her bed, eyes wide open.  I smiled at her, she smiled back.  Well on the road to recovery.”

“One night as we waited at the hospital for the bus to bring us back to our camp, two men drove up on a motorcycle balancing an unconscious boy between them.  They let him down at our feet saying  ‘do what you can for him,’ and drove off.  He appeared to be about 10 years old.  He was barely breathing.  We raced off to get the help of a doctor, who set the child up with an IV.  I was holding the boy when he suddenly opened his eyes and gave me a big smile—very much alive. Another casualty who made it.”

Elena recently returned home to the United States from Haiti and only two days later she went off again to Haiti, on her next project: help building an orphanage. 

Pavaune, USA - Being a Volunteer Minister in Haiti was an incredibly life-changing experience

I can honestly say that nothing I’ve ever done has so vastly changed my entire viewpoint on life in such a short period of time. When I arrived in Haiti, I had no idea what to expect. I knew I’d be helping but I didn’t know in what way. The first day I discovered we were helping in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the General Hospital in Port-Au-Prince, and I was eager to go there. I arrived, ready to assist in whatever way I could. Little did I know that there would be so many areas that needed help.

When we walked in there were two nurses and one doctor trying to care for nearly 60 patients in a dilapidated building with barely any electricity, no A/C, very little sheets and too few beds. It was chaos, and patients weren’t dying because of their illnesses or injuries; they were dying because of dehydration and malnutrition. Three patients died in the ICU the day before we got there. Our first job was to get food and water to the patients. The medical professionals were overwhelmed and were coping with simply trying to treat the patients wounds, so they had no time to take care of any of the basics – like feeding or changing these patients. We each assigned ourselves a ward to be responsible for (there were four) and began to assist.


Working with the Volunteer Ministers: Haiti 2010

Shortly after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, my attention was drawn to Haiti and their people. I knew I was going to Haiti! I just did not know how? I visited my neighbors who are actively involved in the Church of Scientology in Clearwater, Florida. We discussed the earthquake disaster and I shared with them that I would really love to go help the people of Haiti. My neighbors picked up the phone, called someone they knew that was organizing the volunteers for the Haiti relief program out of Tampa. Judy Fagerman, who worked in Tampa called me immediately, and before I knew it I was enrolled in a couple of courses required by Scientology to participate as a Volunteer Minister.


Austin, USA - After everybody forgets about helping, we're still going to be there

On Sunday, February 14, CBS 4 in Miami interviewed Austin Eastlee on his way to Haiti as part of the Scientology Disaster Response Team.  The 20-year-old Pasadena City College graphic design student from Glendale, California, said he sees this as a critical point in the Haiti relief effort and this is the reason he is volunteering now.  It is the one-month anniversary of the earthquake and many aid workers and medical professionals have had to return home, but so much more help is needed.

Speaking about volunteer disaster relief, Eastlee told CBS 4 News in Miami, in an interview prior to takeoff to Haiti, "After everybody forgets about helping, we're still going to be there and they're still going to need us.  This is what people should be doing-helping people."


Karen, USA - Midwife experiences - helping to give birth in complete darkness

A Story from the Official Volunteer Ministers Blog

Karen Farrell is a midwife and a Scientology Volunteer Minister who lives in New England. When she heard about the Haiti earthquake on January 12, her first thought was that she needed to help. Four days later she was in Port-au-Prince with the medical and disaster relief team of doctors and nurses from the Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad, paramedics and Volunteer Ministers who boarded a flight in New York on January 16, chartered by the Church of Scientology to take medical personnel and supplies to Haiti.

Karen was assigned to General Hospital, where the facilities were woefully inadequate for the doctors and nurses working desperately to do something for the worst of the enormous numbers of earthquake victims. Overwhelmed with casualties, the medical staff could scarcely tend to women having babies. The Norwegian Red Cross had set up a small makeshift obstetric and surgical unit and welcomed the midwife and doctors newly arrived from America.


Nicole, USA - This was truly one of the most powerful days of my life!!!

This was truly one of the most powerful days of my life!!! We arrived at the hospital and hit the ground running. I say hospital, but the building was so unstable that all the patients were outdoors - some in tents, some under trees, others just baking in the open sun.

I started off giving assists. Most of the people were amputees, others were severely disfigured, many had open wounds that were still bleeding. They had huge wins from the assists, and they were so vocally appreciative that we often drew crowds of 10-15 people.  Every person asked me to come back tomorrow to teach them and give them more assists. I literally sprinted from one assist to another. Family members patiently waited and then grabbed me the moment I finished an assist and took me to their loved one. One family of nine wouldn't let me leave until I had given all of them an assist.


Olaguer, USA - I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.

"As soon as I heard the Scientology VMs were on there way to Haiti I knew that going would be the best decision I ever made. I have been in Haiti for 2 weeks now. 

"A U.S. soldier approached me yesterday as I was driving the big yellow Scientology Volunteer Minister van and said “ Hey I got a guy who needs help for his village, I don’t know, but since its help I thought about you guys.”  A few days ago sergeant named CJ said “it’s good to see you guys because you care.”

"Working hard, day and night, with other Scientology VMs helping the people of Haiti, being able to really help––it is hard to describe in words.  At night all you can think about is the sun coming up in the morning so you can wake up and do it all over again.

"There is nothing like getting hugs from the kids at the orphanage.

"Seeing people injured and starving made my problems seem like nothing.

"I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world." 

Olaguer, USA

Josh, USA - I wouldn't trade the time I have had here for millions of dollars.

(with permission of

Following his interview with NBC we asked Josh to tell us how he came to work in Haiti and his experiences in a field operating room that could compare war zone field hospital. Here is his response, straight from the Volunteer Ministers camp in Port-Au-Prince:

"I live my life with the motto ‘I am going to change the world’ and I try to live by this in everything I do.

"I love to work for organizations that help and to personally help as many people as I can.

"I had just moved from Los Angeles to Seattle two weeks earlier when my friend Yoshimi called me on Sunday, January 17, and told me that the Scientology Volunteer Ministers had been contacted by more than 100 doctors and nurses who want into to go to Haiti and needed Volunteer Ministers to go help them with anything needed. I immediately said I was in, dropped the job I was supposed to start two days later, told the manager of the apartment I was securing that I was going out of the country and with no money arranged a flight from Seattle to LA. I made it to LA, got my passport in one day and embarked for Haiti on Thursday Jan 21.

"Upon arriving here I was very excited about helping and wanted to get right into action. I accepted the first position offered at the first meeting I went to, not even knowing what it entailed. We started working at the Miami University Hospital organizing their very chaotic, unsorted, catastrophe of a supply tent. They were very skeptical of us working there at first–they would only allow four VMs to help them and we had to be cleared through their armed guards. Within two hours of us working there they loved us and they asked us to bring two extra guys. By the end of the day we had a crew of about 16 people working for them.


Darrell, USA - It was disaster beyond belief.

Upon arriving in Haiti two weeks ago I had no idea what to expect. It was disaster beyond belief. Being a medical professional I was assigned to General Hospital on the night shift and assumed there would be support. However the hospital personnel had been traumatized and would not show up inside the building, so my partner, an extremely competent EMT and Nurse, and I tackled the Critical Care Unit with no supplies, very unsanitary conditions, too many patients and very little time. I hate night shift since I left the military, however, the need took precedence. I can't believe that I did not get tired or hungry.

The first week we got about two to four hours sleep a night (day). Gradually the conditions improved with the untiring effort of my friend and Scientology Volunteer Minister Ayal, and when we showed up on the floor the patients would smile, because they knew they were genuinely being cared for by concerned people. When we finished there were supplies, the floors cleaned, the dead body smell was gone and I felt we had done a very worthwhile deed. Our hours were extremely long and several nights we were without lights. Even though the schedule caught up with my body, I would do it again in a minute.