PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan 23 (AFP) -- Amid the mass of aid agencies piling in to help Haiti quake victims is a batch of Church of Scientology "volunteer ministers", claiming to use the power of touch to reconnect nervous systems.
Clad in yellow T-shirts emblazoned with the logo of the controversial US-based group, smiling volunteers fan out among the injured lying under makeshift shelters in the courtyard of Port-au-Prince's General Hospital.
A wealthy private donor provided his airplane to fly in 80 volunteers from Los Angeles, along with 50 Haitian-American-doctors, in a gesture worth 400,000 dollars, said a Parisian volunteer who gave her name as Sylvie.
"We're trained as volunteer ministers, we use a process called 'assist' to follow the nervous system to reconnect the main points, to bring back communication," she said.
"When you get a sudden shock to a part of your body the energy gets stuck, so we re-establish communication within the body by touching people through their clothes, and asking people to feel the touch."
Next to her lay 22-year-old student Oscar Elweels, whose father rescued him from the basement of his school where he lay with a pillar on his leg for a day after the deadly January 12 quake.
His right leg was amputated below the knee and his left leg was severely bruised and swollen.
More than half of his fellow students died in the rubble of his school, although the rest of his family was unscathed, he said, thanking God.
"One hour ago he had no sensation in his left leg, so I explained the method to him, I touched him and after a while he said 'now I feel everything'," said Sylvie.
"Otherwise they might have had to amputate his other leg. Now his sister knows the method and she can do it."
Asked about the method being used on him, a smiling Elweels described it as "a sort of harmony between the nerves, a kind of exercise. I couldn't feel at all, but then I could."
Does he know Scientology? "Yes, it's a French organization," he said.
"All the patients are happy with the technique," said Sylvie. "But some doctors don't like the yellow T-shirts. It's a color thing," she insisted.
Another group of Scientologists distributed antibiotic pills. "The doctors said give everyone with wounds antibiotics," said Italian volunteer Marina.
Some doctors at the hospital are skeptical. One US doctor, who asked not to be named, snorted: "I didn't know touching could heal gangrene."
When asked what the Scientologists are doing here, another doctor said: "I don't know."
Do you care? "Not really," she said, wheeling an unconscious patient out of the operating room to join hundreds of others in the hospital's sunny courtyard. (By CHARLES ONIANS/AFP)