Scott Winters, 44, of Old Greenwich, has a busy career as an actor on television and in feature films. His face is familiar to fans of the HBO series "Oz." He lived in Los Angeles for a few years before returning east last year with his wife and two daughters -- to be "nearer the grandparents."
With the inevitable down time of an actor, Winters decided last spring to do something un-actor-like, to become a certified emergency medical technician (EMT). As a result, for the last few months he has worked the "graveyard shift," from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. on weekends as an EMT in the Emergency Room of Stamford Hospital.
"I wanted to do this for my kids and for disaster relief as these disasters seem to be happening more and more," he said recently.
Then came the Haiti earthquake.
Last Tuesday, Winters returned from 10 days of volunteer work as an EMT in Haiti. He stopped by the Citizen offices to share his experience.
"I fell madly in love with the people," he said. "They are no different from other people in the Caribbean. They have smiles like the sunrise and softness in their strength. They've been so dejected and so deprived. I saw a man selling coal out of a coffee can. I saw a woman fixing another woman's hair. They were getting on with their lives -- trying to catapult themselves forward."
Winters went to Haiti with three others who share his Christian faith, one of whom was Pastor Dimas Salaberris of the nondenominational Infinity Church in the south Bronx, which Winters attends. "He was a fan of the `OZ' show and recognized me when I was speaking before a children's orphanage in New York where he was the chaplain," said Winters. "He married me and my wife in the Central Park Boathouse."
Joining them for the Haiti trip was another Infinity parishioner, investment banker Bob Thompson, founder of One Life Missions, which provides scholarships for inner city kids and sends volunteers to disaster zones through its brand new Missions to Disaster Zones program. The fourth person was New York State Assemblyman Al Taylor, who is also a pastor of the Infinity Mennonite Church in Harlem.
The day after the earthquake, on Jan. 13, the four decided to go to Haiti to help out. "We live by faith," Winters said. "But we won't do it for the sake of being radical. We were praying for some affirmation in our hearts."
And the answer came back.
"Wow, we're supposed to go!" Winters said.
Five days after the earthquake, on Jan. 17, the four flew down to the Dominican Republic, where they connected with a Haitian American pastor/doctor and tour guide. They boarded a truck and drove 4 to 5 hours with thousands of Haitians streaming their way towards the Dominican Republic, trying to escape the carnage.
Nearing Port au Prince, "It looked like the Congo on the worst day," Winters said. "We saw dumpster trucks loaded with people, 30 people on a pickup truck. The destruction was far more than could be seen or felt on TV."
"We were going to different sites. The field hospitals gave us antibiotics. We came upon a back alley refugee camp in the Delmas province and were surrounded by people with severe needs. I cleaned a woman's ear -- her ear had been severed. I helped a man with a broken femur. In WWII, the number one cause of death was from broken femurs because of the internal bleeding," Winters said.
They stayed on the rooftop of a Baptist mission, just outside Port-au-Prince in a town called Petionville. "There were 20,000 escaped prisoners," Winters said, "but we didn't feel unsafe. We felt protected. That was the Lord."
But two days after their arrival, on Jan. 19, they were awakened on their rooftop by a 6.1 earthquake.
"I said, JESUS! The quake stopped," he said. Recalling that moment his eyes filled with tears. "You heard people praising Jesus. You just heard them singing." Winter said. "These people had nothing. This is the poorest country in the world, even before the earthquake. There are 1.5 million homeless. They buried 75,000 bodies last week. There are 200,000 dead. The smell of dead bodies was everywhere."
Seven days after the earthquake, Winters came upon a man whose head was, he said, "split open in a fracture with the crevice filled with pus."
"I tension-taped his head." he said.
"We got a couple of miracles," Winters added. "There was one woman who couldn't walk. The next day she walked out of the rubble. She had a huge laceration on her leg. That image went out around the world."
In another dark alleyway they experienced a "loaves and fishes miracle," according to Winters.
"We were in the Carrefour area where we heard there was artillery and convicts, but we went anyway and stopped at a dark alley full of people," Winters related.
His group proceeded to unload and hand out some 35 pre-plated spaghetti and chopped hot dog dinners.
"On our first day there we'd read about a miracle in Africa that had a food multiplication. I asked the Lord to multiply the food," Winters said. Handing out the 35 plates of food, he realized something . . .
"We had fed every last person in that alley and there were definitely more than 35," said Winters. "Jesus multiplied our food. So that's God -- he sneaks up on us."
"We totally made a difference," Scott said of his Infinity Church group. "We got a lot of medical supplies and equipment to dig through the rubble."
Winters also sees hope for the future. He tells the story of treating a woman with a new baby, born the day of the catastrophic earthquake. "The baby was called Rosedale," he said. "I told the mother that her baby was really special. I felt that his birthday was a new beginning for Haiti. It encouraged her."
Haiti, however, is going to need health aid and support for a long time, said Winters.
"The orphanages broke my heart," he said. Scott described a little girl dressed in red jumping into his lap and putting her arms around his neck. "She fell asleep in my arms. Her name was Loudes. She was so adorable. I wanted to take her home."
Now that he is back home, life goes on for Winters -- and this week he had an audition for an NBC pilot. But Haiti stays on his mind.
"We've actually mobilized a food effort for Haiti. We've garnered a number of people who want to go down. We want to go back," he said, before adding, "We're all Haitians now."
Those interested in contacting One Life Mission, can write to them at P.O. Box 795. Harrison, N.Y. 10528.