Scientology Volunteer Minister says “It’s not over in Haiti”

| Pahrump, Nevada 26 February 2010 |

With only sixteen days until she and her husband retire, Donna Cooper, mother of eight, grandmother and soon-to-be great grandmother from Pahrump, Nevada, is not planning how she will spend her well-earned leisure time. Instead she is boning up on how to avoid cholera and mosquito-borne tropical diseases as she prepares to return to Haiti to continue her work with the Scientology Volunteer Minister Disaster Response team in Port-au-Prince.

“As soon as my husband heard about the earthquake he looked at me and said ‘I know, you have to go,’” said Cooper. A Scientologist since 1997 and veteran of the Scientology Volunteer Minister Disaster Response in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, she immediately contacted the Church of Scientology of Las Vegas and the Volunteer Ministers hotline to arrange transport to Port-au-Prince.

Cooper left from Los Angeles on a Scientology-sponsored charter flight January 21, the second of six such flights that have brought over 400 doctors, nurses and EMTs to Haiti and more than 200 Scientology Volunteer Ministers to support them in their work.

Most of the Volunteer Ministers worked in two of the Port-au-Prince hospitals or in clinics set up in tent cities in and around the city. But Cooper wanted to do what she did in New Orleans—take care of the people who are taking care of the disaster victims. So Donna cooked and washed clothes for the doctors, nurses and Volunteer Ministers.

“The doctors were great,” she said. “They slept on the ground in sleeping bags just like the rest of us, they didn’t ask for special favors. They never complained about anything.”

“We didn’t have a kitchen—just a couple of two-burner hot plates,” she said.  “One day I grabbed two big bags of rice, thirty-three cans of soup, four cans of peas and cooked it all together. It was hard to believe, but everyone loved it.  People were so easy to please. I did laundry for the doctors and nurses because they simply had no time to wash their own scrubs.”

“Between our camp and the UN area at the airport were huge stacks of donated food. We would load it into a big truck to bring it to four local orphanages. Doing the food drop one day, it really hit me that here are these kids who have nobody—homes gone, families gone—they just wanted to be hugged. We’ve all had hardships in our lives, some more, some less, but nothing most people have experienced has been like that. The Haitians are amazing people. They are so resilient, so strong.”

Cooper plans to return to Haiti mid-April, after she and her husband officially retire from farming. Their oldest son and his wife and family are taking it over, which allows Cooper to be gone for as long as needed. “My husband is the most wonderful guy on the face of the Earth and he understands I have to go back,” she said.

Cooper explains why she is returning to Haiti when she could be enjoying the ease of retirement after operating a farm and raising a large family. “A lot of volunteers have had to return home, but it isn’t over. I can go back and I so badly want to go back.”

This time, Cooper’s 17-year-old daughter will go to Haiti with her. “She wanted to come with me in January but I made her stay in school. Now that she’s seen my pictures and read the journal I kept, I can’t keep her from going.”  The teenager will work alongside her mother, helping in the next phase of disaster relief.

The Scientology Volunteer Ministers corps is an embracive program of the Church of Scientology that provides community service, disaster relief and emergency response. Created more than thirty years ago by Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard, the program has expanded to 203,000 Volunteer Ministers worldwide who have served at 185 disaster sites.