Courtesy of Kimberly Hunter
Kimberly Hunter stands in Banda Aceh, about a mile inland, during her monthlong stay after the tsunami.

Traveling from Salt Lake City to a disaster site desecrated by December's deadly tsunami, Kimberly Hunter, a volunteer minister for the Church of Scientology, arrived in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, less than two weeks after the tsunami hit.

Upon seeing the collapsed buildings, smashed cars and debris strewn over the land, Hunter said it was the worst sight a person could conceive — multiplied by 10.

"The people's bodies are beat up and injured," Hunter said. "They are so ill. They have a lot of things we don't see in the United States, like tetanus, malaria, hepatitis and all the injuries."

Local agencies sent medical supplies and hygiene kits for Hunter to distribute. After immediately providing the physical aide to victims, she spent her monthlong volunteer mission performing a technique called "nerve and touch assists" on victims, hoping to relieve mental and physical pain that many experienced in the disaster.

"Everyone came into our tents to get assists," Hunter said. "Not only the distressed victims, but the people picking up bodies or the military."

Nerve assists straighten the joints and spines of an injured person when a trained individual strokes along the nerve channels that branch out from the spine, according to the Scientology Web site at Touch assists re-establish communication between the person and the injured part of the body when a trained individual repetitively touches the injured area. According to Scientologist belief, after immediate aid, the assists are an integral part of the healing process.

"Nerve assists are good for back pains and headaches," Hunter said. "Touch assists help the person get back in communication with all parts of the body."

After undergoing the assists, many victims were able to begin the healing process. Some were able to sleep for the first time since the tsunami.

"Most had not slept because they were afraid to close their eyes," Hunter said. "When they closed their eyes, they saw a tsunami."

While Hunter and volunteers from all over the world performed assists on thousands, they also focused on training victims so they could perform the therapies on their own.

"I was big on training because I knew we couldn't stay there forever," Hunter said. "By the time we left, 80 percent of (helpers) were already gone. We were able to help (victims) heal themselves."

In her last day before returning to Utah, Hunter and trained volunteers, performed 928 assists and trained 238 people.

Hunter said many of the victims' stories were the same. Most had lost family members and their houses and/or businesses.

"You'd expect to see these people downtrodden, but they weren't," she said. "A lot has happened to those people of Aceh. The thing that stuck with me is that they are so thankful."

The province of Aceh lost more than 150,000 people in the tsunami. They left 35,000 orphans in Banda Aceh and 50,000 people in refugee camps, Hunter said.

Now back in Salt Lake City, Hunter wishes she could return to Indonesia and help more tsunami victims.

"I miss the people," Hunter said. "They are so pure and clean of heart. Even in this massive disaster, it was easy to get to the spirit of the people."

Along with assists, she brought medical items from Globus Relief and hygiene and baby kits from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Sri Lankan community in Salt Lake City is also aiding tsunami victims. An art auction scheduled for today in the Wells Fargo Corporation Office Building will generate funds for orphanages in Sri Lanka through UNICEF, the United Nations organization devoted to children. The building is at 299 S. Main in Salt Lake City. The auction will begin at 6 p.m. on the 19th floor. For information, call 801-272-0433.

E-mail: [email protected]