“The biggest right there is in human rights is the right to help”—Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard
It was just under a year ago on February 6, that a 7.8-magnitude earthquake slashed through southeastern Turkey near the Syrian border. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the earthquake displaced or disrupted the lives of 15.73 million people in Syria and Turkey including 2.5 million children. Scientology Volunteer Minister disaster response specialists from Tel Aviv mobilized immediately and were soon joined by VMs from Pakistan, India and the United States.
This personal account from one Israeli Scientologist shows the impact of the program on survivors and its lasting impression on the volunteers.
The day after the earthquake, an Israeli Scientologist received a call from a friend at the Scientology Center in Tel Aviv saying they had received official permission to bring a team of Volunteer Ministers as part of the country’s response to the earthquake.
On the VMs’ arrival in Turkey, AFAD, the Disaster and
Emergency Management Authority, assigned them to help organize donations in government warehouses and distribute them to those in need.
“We soon found that supplies were not making it to families in the surrounding villages so we took on that task,” said the Volunteer Minister.
For many, every home in their village was destroyed, and they were living nearby in tents. Entering an area like this, the volunteers would first visit the mukhtar, the village chief, who helped direct distribution of supplies.
“Every place we went, we were met with tears and hugs,” said the Volunteer Minister. “These people had lost everything but hope. As many as 30 people were living in a single tent.” And they expressed their amazement: first, that the team came from Israel and also that they were doing this work voluntarily.
One day they were approached by an English nonprofit that had received a donation of thousands of frozen pizzas but did not have the manpower to deliver them to the refugees.
“We made pizzas with them and went to distribute them. The joy of the children was heaven!”
It was the children the volunteers were most concerned about. Whenever possible, they would bring something special for them—candy, a biscuit, a toy. The children’s lives had been
disrupted by the disaster. They would play soccer and other games with the children—anything to help extrovert them and orient them in their new surroundings.
“I stayed much longer than the week I’d planned for,” said the Israeli VM, “because it was simply the right thing to do.” After he returned home, dozens more volunteers arrived from Scientology organizations to continue the work. “I cherish the privilege that fell to me of being able to help people who really needed it.”
For the past seven decades, in times of trouble and despair, the bright yellow jackets of the Scientology Volunteer Ministers have been a symbol of hope and a promise of help.
Wherever they go, Volunteer Ministers disaster response teams deliver Scientology assists. These are techniques developed by Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard that address the mental and spiritual factors in stress and trauma. Assists can help victims of disaster orient themselves in the environment, free themselves from grief and hopelessness, and restore their peace of mind, making it possible for them to make the best of their circumstances and begin planning for the future. These simple techniques are easy to learn and the Volunteer Ministers help people log on to the Scientology website and enroll on the free Scientology Assists for Illnesses and Injuries course, which is available free of charge in 20 languages. This way, those they extend help to can continue to help others once the VMs have moved on to the next village or shelter.
The Scientology Volunteer Ministers program is a religious social service, developed in 1973. In an essay announcing the program, Mr. Hubbard wrote: “If one does not like the crime, cruelty, injustice and violence of this society, he can do something about it. He can become a Volunteer Minister and help civilize it, bring it conscience and kindness and love and freedom from travail by instilling into it trust, decency, honesty and tolerance.”
Their motto is no matter the circumstances, “Something can be done about it.”
Scientology Volunteer Ministers international response to the pandemic is documented in Operation: Do Something About It, a feature-length film produced by Scientology Media Productions that premiered on December 5, International Volunteer Day. Scientology Network is available on DIRECTV Channel 320, DIRECTV STREAM, AT&T U-verse and streams at Scientology.tv, on mobile apps and via the Roku, Amazon Fire and Apple TV platforms. Since launching with an introduction by Scientology ecclesiastical leader Mr. David Miscavige in March 2018, the Scientology Network has been viewed in 237 countries and territories in 17 languages.