In the centuries before government welfare programs became the order of the day, churches were the principal caretakers of those in society who needed assistance. In many areas, churches are still looked to for aid, and it is in this tradition that Scientologists actively work in their communities.
As Church members progress up the Bridge and increase their own understanding and awareness of themselves and their fellow man, it is natural that their attention turns to the world around them and that they assume responsibility for the conditions they find there. Charity and social responsibility are natural outgrowths of their spiritual values. And compared to similarly sized congregations, Scientologists pride themselves in performing more hours of community service per capita.
The Scientologist's approach to betterment activities is results-oriented: to handle the immediate human or community need, while addressing its underlying causes so lasting results and long-term improvements are achieved.
The staggering problem of drug abuse is addressed by the Church and its parishioners through numerous grass roots anti-drug efforts, with emphasis on education and prevention.
In the United States, the Church of Scientology International's "Lead the Way to a Drug-Free USA" campaign works with other community anti-drug organizations, united by the common purpose of eradicating drugs. Lead the Way in the United States further broadened its scope when it sponsored a national conference in Washington, DC, attended by more than 100 leaders in the anti-drug field.
In Canada and in European countries including Germany, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, Austria, Sweden, Norway and Italy and in the United Kingdom and Mexico, the Church's "Say No to Drugs" program has conducted broad, public drug-abuse awareness and prevention campaigns.
Church of Scientology International also created and launched the "Drug-Free Marshals" youth drug-education and prevention program in 1993, a program to educate children as young as 6 on the dangers of drugs, and to challenge them to remain drug-free. They demonstrate their commitment by being "sworn in" as Drug-Free Marshals, pledging to remain drug-free and to encourage their peers to do the same.
The campaign rapidly spread internationally. Since its inception, in excess of 12,000 youth and 1,000 adults have been sworn in as Drug-Free Marshals in cities and towns throughout the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia and Europe.
Scientologists recognize illiteracy as the root of poverty and crime and lost productivity in our cities, and the necessity to take effective action to eradicate it.
Six years ago, Church of Scientology volunteers in Washington, DC, formed the Community Service Guild, a tutoring project to assist the DC public school system's Saturday Learning Extension Program. Quickly recognizing the real needs, they started training tutors, and through the years have trained hundreds of tutors who in turn have tutored thousands of the school system's students. Testing of students involved in the Guild's program show marked improvements in their school performance.
Similar projects to eradicate illiteracy have been established by Church volunteers in cities throughout the United States, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, Boston, Memphis, Orlando and New Haven, as well as in Australia, Canada and other countries.
Another particular concern of Scientologists is the plight of children who are direct or indirect victims of abuse, poverty and crime.
For eight years, members and staff of Scientology Churches in Los Angeles have worked to aid the Los Angeles County Department of Childrens Services which serves a staggering 54,000 children who have become wards of the courts due to abuse or abandonment.
The Los Angeles Church of Scientology's Community Outreach Program and Visual Artists Association sponsored 57 murals, all painted by Church volunteer artists, in the county's facilities for abused and abandoned children.
Each Holiday season, Church members conduct city-wide toy drives and organize Christmas parties and festivities for 6,000 needy children.
All told, Church volunteers in Los Angeles have donated in excess of 100,000 volunteer hours to the facilities of the Department of Childrens Services, earning it and the volunteers recognitions as the Volunteer Group of the Year and commendations, proclamations and resolutions from city, state and county officials.
One of the Church's most renowned holiday programs is the annual Winter Wonderland in Hollywood, California. Started as a tradition a decade ago, it has delighted tens of thousands of underprivileged children and families. The tradition has now expanded to Scientology churches in Clearwater, Florida, and East Grinstead, England.
Scientology Volunteer Ministers play an active role when natural disaster or civil disturbance strikes their community. During the 1992 Los Angeles riots, 300 Scientologists surrounded an entire city block to prevent looting and destruction of the area. A peaceful yet firm presence, they were not attacked and, in fact, this stand drew a line the rioters did not cross. Neighborhoods beyond that point were left untouched by the mobs. Volunteer Ministers also played a leading role in the massive cleanup effort that followed the riots.
In January 1994, when earthquakes caused sudden and widespread destruction in Los Angeles, Church staff members and the Volunteer Ministers Corps provided more than 10,000 hours of volunteer work and, through fundraising activities, tens of thousands of dollars in relief items. These ministers also provided spiritual counseling to more than 1,000 earthquake victims to help them recover from their shock and distress. The Volunteer Ministers Corps earned commendations from the president of the Los Angeles City Council and from California state senators.
Church of Scientology volunteers were likewise active and on the scene of the major 1989 San Francisco earthquake, the destroyed territories of Florida from Hurricane Andrew's path, the 1994 floods in northern Italy and other times of dire need by communities around the world.
Through community clean-up and improvement efforts, Church members and staff make a direct and immediate impact on their neighborhoods and cities. Projects include public park and street clean-ups, adopt-a-highway programs, graffiti paint-outs, recycling, planting trees and campaigns to reduce pollution.
In Seattle, the Scientology Environmental Task Force has been active for several years in environmental improvement efforts such as Plant Seattle Green, a recycling program that raised funds to plant trees in newly developed areas of the city. The Task Force has sponsored murals painted by volunteer artists to beautify the city.
Blood donation drives are another service organized by Scientology churches in cities around the world. Because Scientologists are drug-free, their participation in such drives is welcomed by community blood service agencies.
The Church's community services also include neighborhood crime watches, participation in walk-a-thons for charities such as the March of Dimes and fundraising on behalf of infants with AIDS.
In just one month, October 1994, Churches of Scientology in the United States organized and sponsored 70 events across the country -- study skills seminars, community clean-up drives, and drug prevention and education workshops, activating thousands of volunteers.
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From: The Church of Scientology: 40th Anniversary.
Copyright 1994-2004 CSI. All Rights Reserved. The Bridge and Scientology are trademarks and service marks owned by Religious Technology Center and are used with its permission. Scientologist is a collective membership mark designating members of the affiliated churches and missions of Scientology.