Scientology And Me

March 22, 2010

Local Scientology member forgoes break to assist in Haiti

Echo Brabenec, 18, a Leelanau County native has traveled to Haiti to help with the country’s recovery from a devastating earthquake on Jan. 12. She is shown comforting a young Haitian friend during the trip. Photo by Peter Dunn

SUTTONS BAY—”I was on vacation, and thought to myself, ‘Doing this is so worthless when so many need help,’” said 18-year-old Echo Brabenec, of Suttons Bay. “I felt like I could do better by doing something to help the people in Haiti.”

The mostly home-schooled teen (she studied at Suttons Bay High School for a year, and graduated a year early from Traverse City West), went to Port-au-Prince, Haiti as one of the volunteer ministers of the Church of Scientology on Feb. 14, and will be there until mid-April.

She and her fiancé, Shane Fasel, a TC West graduate from the Interlochen area, and the church group flew out of Miami on a church-chartered plane packed with donated medical supplies. They are working in tandem with other relief organizations, churches, and military units, operating under the overriding viewpoint of their church that “something can be done about it.”

Echo explained why she felt so compelled to help the people of Haiti, whose country was devastated by a massive earthquake on Jan. 12.

“I’ve been raised with the idea that you take responsibility for the things you see in your life,” she said. “And what I saw was that so many needed help.”

Her parents, Randy Gilmore and Elisa Brabenec of Suttons Bay, said, “Echo has wanted to do this type of work since she was a young child; she was one of the youngest members of the church to complete her volunteer minister training. With each opportunity presented to her, we said, ‘But Echo, you’re only 12′… we always thought she was too young to handle what she was trying to do at the time.”

NBC’s “Today” show reporter Kerry Sanders was in Port-au-Prince, and gave a report on the work of the volunteer ministers.

Sanders stated that groups from the Church of Scientology have helped at the sites of many of the world’s worst disasters, saying, “They were at 9/11, and at Katrina, and now they are here, doing the work that no one else wants to do.”

Welcome reception

Sanders’ report included interviews with members of the group, and with a doctor working in a crowded, makeshift hospital, who said, “I am totally impressed with these young adults from the Scientology Church. They have just been so effective for us.”

A young volunteer named Nicole, who wore the bright yellow T-shirt that identifies the group, said that the Scientologists are not in Haiti to spread their beliefs. “We don’t even mention religion,” she said, adding that the menial work they were doing was unlikely to make people want to join the church.

Sanders reported on the value of a particular type of gentle touch therapy called an “assist,” saying, “In 20 minutes, we watched as Nicole took a pained little girl from frowns to giggles.”

Echo spent a week in a Christian school giving assists for physical pain and emotional stress, and has helped deliver seminars to aid people in refocusing their attention from the trauma of their situation to productive plans and activities. Her group has recently been cleaning a hospital to prepare it for reopening.

“Their work with the Haitians focuses on bringing each individual with whom they work to an improved state of mind, one in which they will be able to look at their situation with hope and certainty of their own individual ability to effect the changes that are needed,” said Echo’s mother, Elisa.

On a typical day in Haiti, Echo and the team get up at 7:30 in the morning and gather for a meeting at 8. The 50 to 60 people, including medical teams, decide where they are most needed that day, and then go out to help and deliver the simple and effective assists; the technique is also easy to teach, and those who learn it can then help others. The team has gone to orphanages and refugee camps, and has also given assists to members of the military and medical teams.

“We’ve been received with open arms here,” she said. “All the people are warm and friendly, and often give us big hugs and kisses. The Haitians are the craziest drivers I’ve has ever seen! But it feels really good when little kids give a huge ‘thumbs up’ when we drive by. The kids we’ve met are smart, and very fast learners.”

Echo described her experience saying, “This is one of the greatest experiences of my life; it’s wonderful to be able to deliver an assist and see the smiles come back on people’s faces!”

In spite of the devastation that surrounds her in Haiti, Echo said, “The people of Haiti really need help to get their homes rebuilt, but people are doing what they can to get back up on their feet and clean up … I feel a sense of hopefulness.”

Echo’s parents reflect the belief of many of those who have gone to Haiti to help in the aftermath of the tragedy: “We believe in people’s inherent ability to create beauty, do good work, and solve the problems that face them. If you relieve the immediate stress and focus them on that ability, they will respond to the challenges of life with renewed vigor.”

February 19, 2010

Scientology Volunteer makes good on promise to Haiti quake survivor

19 February 2010 – New Haven Register

NEW HAVEN — Ralph-Marie Gedeon could easily have died Jan. 12 in the earthquake in Haiti when the walls of his Port-au-Prince engineering college came tumbling down on top of him.

Gedeon, 22, who on Thursday night was airlifted to Tweed New Haven Regional Airport, could easily have been left for dead had his father, Raphael Gedeon, not gone looking for him, and then spent hours frantically climbing through the rubble, calling his son’s name until he heard him cry out. It took the elder Gedeon a day and a half to dig his son out.

When he and some friends finally reached Gedeon, they found his left leg was crushed.

He might have died soon afterward, too, when he initially refused to have his mangled leg amputated because, in Haiti, those without limbs are shunned.

Instead, he met Ayal Lindeman, a licensed practical nurse, emergency medical technician and Scientology volunteer minister who was in Haiti as a volunteer emergency worker in the critical care unit of General Hospital in Port-au-Prince.

Lindeman, of Spring Valley, N.Y., convinced Gedeon to have the life-saving surgery, promising him a new leg, along with the physical and occupational therapy he would need, if he would agree.

More importantly, Lindeman happens to have a high school friend and former track teammate, Dr. David Gibson, who is an orthopedic surgeon who teaches at the Yale School of Medicine and is affiliated with the Hospital of Saint Raphael in New Haven.

Lindeman told Gedeon about his friend the orthopedic surgeon in the United States, and promised that he would get Gedeon a prosthetic leg.

Then Lindeman called Gibson, who agreed to donate his work and time for the necessary surgeries. Gibson also arranged for St. Raphael’s to cover other medical treatment and physical and occupational therapy. Finally, working through a friend who heads a pediatric health care fund affiliated with the Foundation for Greater New Haven, Gibson got a manufacturer to donate the prosthesis.

Finally, the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading /Airlink, arranged for a private jet to bring Gedeon to the U.S.

Gedeon and Lindeman were due to arrive at Tweed late Thursday night or early today after being delayed in Florida.

“We’re going to work on his leg” in advance of attaching the prosthetic leg, Gibson said earlier Thursday, while Gedeon and Lindeman still were en route to Florida.

Gibson, 53, explained that “in Haiti, having an amputation is a horrible thing because you essentially are put at the side of the road” and ignored.

Lindeman stayed with Gedeon through the amputation surgery and one other operation on his remaining stump, Gibson said. Gideon “is coming up here with some work” that still needs to be done.

Gibson estimated that the artificial leg normally would cost between $10,000 and $15,000, and the surgery Gibson will perform normally costs “several tens of thousands of dollars” in addition.

He called Dr. Peter Lindskog, chairman of the board of a pediatric health care fund that Gibson also sits on, and asked if Gedeon’s case might qualify for assistance. Lindskog called a local vendor, New England Orthotics and Prosthetics of Branford, “and they said, ‘Fine, we’ll give it to you for free,’” Gibson said.

Gedeon will be in New Haven for “as long as it takes,” Gibson said. “I would estimate it would take a couple of months to get him tuned up and ready to rock back. The challenge is going to be to get him to the point where he’s ready to go back” and able to stay healthy even in a place where he won’t be able to get good health care.

“We pretty much need to make him bulletproof” before he returns, he said.

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