Wednesday, February 17, 2010

todayshow.com: Scientologists Make a Difference in Haiti

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MEREDITH: It has been 22 days now since that powerful magnitude 7 earthquake rocked Haiti. Organizations, including the controversial Church of Scientology, have sent volunteers to the region, but what exactly are they doing there? We had NBC's Kerry sanders check it out. Kerry, good morning.

SANDERS: Well, good morning, Meredith. Look, Catholic Relief Services, The Southern Baptist Convention, they're well known for their work in disasters, but now, quietly, the Church of Scientology is helping those in need. And as we discovered, they were at ground zero following 9/11, they were at Katrina, and now they're here, often doing the work that no one else wants to.

REPORTER: Frenetic chaos of this makeshift operating room. Doctors found unexpected helping hands. There, peeking out from under their scrubs, those yellow shirts are a tip-off.

150 volunteers from the sometimes controversial Church of Scientology. Like 22-year-old Josh Hawkins. No medical background, now working with surgeons.

HAWKINS: They were very sketchy when they first saw us. I think just because of Scientology, the name has some people associated with, so on and so forth.

DR DUDA: Your little baby suffered some fractures --

SANDERS: Doctors like Rosemary Duda, a Catholic from Boston, didn't even know who they were.

DR DUDA: I am totally impressed with these young adults from the Scientology church. They have just been so effective for us.

HAWKINS: People see the fact that, you know, the amazing work that we've been doing, just the love that we've been giving. They're like, oh, these are actually cool guys. They're not weird, freaky people, things like that, you know?

REPORTER: Nicole Greenwood from Los Angeles found her role here. Scientology teaches there's a connection between the mind and touch. It's called an assist. In 20 minutes, we watched as Nicole took the pain from the little girl with frowns to giggles. Nicole says scientologists are not here to spread their beliefs.

GREENWOOD: We don't even mention Scientology. We're here to help people. I don't think that cleaning toilets is going to get anyone to join the church.

REPORTER: Actor and accomplished pilot John Travolta flew in tons of medical aid. He's a Scientologist, but that never came up.

MR TRAVOLTA: When we arrived, we had 50, no 100 people, marines and volunteer ministers from my church helping us unload it.

REPORTER: Scientologists believe members' lives improve when they're highly organized. So, when you arrive here with those teachings, you can --

HARNEY: We can organize. We can find out what's needed and wanted and we can deliver those in an organized fashion.

SANDERS: And in all the chaos, a sobering moment when Josh cut his finger with a used bloody scalpel. He'll now be on preventive aids medication for the next six months.

HAWKINS: I'm still glad I came, beyond belief.

REPORTER: Reporter: Even with this?

HAWKINS: Oh, yeah, definitely.

SANDERS: Well, Josh and the others say they are here for the long-term, three to five months, and then they'll rotate out and other members of the Church of Scientology will replace them?

MERIDITH: Kerry Sanders, thank you so much.
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