"I especially thank the Volunteer Ministers for giving us this courage."
The news of the Indian Ocean tsunami struck her like a physical blow. But the immensity of the catastrophe motivated her into action. After she had contacted her Sri Lankan friends and colleagues to ensure they and their families were OK, together with her sister, Sarah, she began to organize tsunami relief actions and resources.
Working around the clock, within a week, the sisters had contacted and coordinated the travel plans of Volunteer Ministers from churches from around the country and abroad, securing clearance for the teams to travel into the devastated region. They also assembled a team of nine medical doctors who agreed to go to Sri Lanka, and more than 9,000 pounds of medical supplies and other vitally needed items, including tens of thousands of water purification tablets. And soon, the Sears sisters, too, were en route to the Indian Ocean.
Once in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, the Sears sisters established an official coordination center, spending the next four months overseeing the activities of more than 100 Volunteer Ministers who joined them from Austria, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Switzerland and the United States.
"Our teams of Volunteer Ministers operated out of the coastal cities of Galle, Matara and Trincomalee — all areas hit hard by the tsunami," said Alissa Sears. "In Galle, for example, the conditions could only be described as 'total chaos.'"
"No order, no control — and no solutions," said Bea Beck, one of the Volunteer Minister team members from Budapest, Hungary — among the first to arrive on the ground. "People wandered around not knowing where to get help; thousands of injured were untreated; apathy and dismay were the prevailing mood. Corpses and the ruins of hundreds of destroyed buildings dominated the landscape."
The Volunteer Ministers set to work. "On that first day we treated more than 120 people with basic first aid," said Beck. "They came with open wounds, deep and infected. Although there was a hospital nearby, it was running out of bandages and medicine." Medical supplies that the Searses and other Volunteer Ministers had arranged beforehand turned out to be vital and life-saving.
After tending to first aid needs of survivors, the Volunteer Minister teams began providing Scientology assists to relieve stress, anguish and spiritual trauma. (See "What Are Assists?") The shock of the tsunamis was obvious on every face they encountered. Most survivors were disoriented and out of touch with their surroundings. The assists revitalized them.
"One German Volunteer Minister told of an elderly man who was thought by his family to be on his deathbed," recalled Sarah Sears. "The man's son informed one of the visiting Volunteer Ministers that his father was unconscious and unable to hear or speak. The Volunteer Minister proceeded to administer an assist, and then taught the son the procedure."
After a while, Sarah said, he had the son repeat the assist, ensuring all along that each action was done correctly. A half-hour later, the Volunteer Minister prompted the son to ask his father how he was doing. Much to the son's surprise, the old man responded with his first conscious words in three weeks: "Much better than before."