In the beginning there is horror, misery on a scale so grand it seems overwhelming. Then slowly, out of chaos comes order, imposed against all odds by ordinary people willing to labor in extraordinary situations, willing to risk potential danger, willing to work in stifling hot tents.
American relief workers are making a difference in the camps bordering Kosovo, reports CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey. These committed volunteers can't solve everything, but together they help weave the fragile refugee safety net.
Joanna Kotcher, with Mercy Corps International, works the transit camp -- the first place refugees reach. Kotcher sees them in, and she often sees them out. "If we have a huge inflow and we don't have tents up, we just think, okay, shelter, warmth, water, food. Take care of the vulnerable people, the sick and the elderly, newborns. And it's just an hour to hour thing," Kotcher said.
"And I want to tell you, it really, it really tears at you," she added. "I mean, these people have incredible strength."
That's what prompted Ron Redmond to take a leave of absence from his reporter's job to work 18 hour days as a spokesman for the UN refugee agency. "When I saw this from 10,000 miles away, what was happening here, I really had to come," Redmond said. "I really felt like it was necessary for me to be here."
Redmond's job also includes helping move refugees, but his primary purpose is collating and feeding out the information constantly demanded by a multinational press corps. "This could happen anywhere really and people should realize that and thank God it's not happening to them," he said.
What's happening often emerges in the medical tent. Doctor Heather Papowitz of the organization Doctors of the World decided the human touch was better than making money back home. "Because I trained in internal medicine my first thought about seeing a kid was fear," Papowitz said. "But after a while seeing the children and getting more comfortable with them, I love seeing them."
The relief workers know they will be emotionally scarred from the work here. But the rewards, they say, make that a price worth paying.
Copyright 1999 CBS. All rights reserved.
CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff