This Albanian phrase meaning "thank you" was one of the most common phrases heard by three members of the CC Medical Record Department (MRD) as they helped process arriving Kosovar refugees at Fort Dix last month.
At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Jerry King, director of the MRD, sought three employees to volunteer their time in early June at Ft. Dix, in New Jersey.
King was pleased that within 30 minutes of the announcement, he had a pool of nine volunteers.
"It was nice to have so many willing volunteers. I didn't anticipate having so many," said King. "Those who went did a real nice job."
Mark Davidson, Shannon Hall, and Joe Hendery were the three medical records administrators selected for the task.
The three assisted the Fort Dix staff and other organizations by reviewing refugee medical records to ensure proper documentation for entry into the United States. Their main goal and responsibility was to keep families together. Once the required documentation was secured, they forwarded the information to gain final clearance for the refugee families to be admitted to the U.S. The CC team also made a few changes to the existing medical records system to make it more user-friendly, and assisted with patient registration.
"Having the refugees leave the camp was bittersweet," said Hall. "The entire family is released to join their host family together to start a new life. But on the other hand, they're leaving the safety and security of the camp where they have guaranteed shelter, food, health care, and the camaraderie of the other refugees."
Over the course of the week, there were many observations and surprises for the CC group, who weren't quite sure what to expect when they packed their bags and headed for New Jersey.
"It was a scene of desperate people in a foreign place," said Davidson. "I found it rewarding and personally satisfying to be able to help."
For Hendery, the children made the biggest impression.
"Kids are the same everywhere, I think," said Hendery. "They were outside playing and having a good time. They're just so resilient, and that's what really got to me. They did have a sense of weariness, but were still behaving like normal kids, playing on the swing sets and running around."
Hall, who shared a room with the attending social worker for several days, heard many stories of loss from her, and also the refugees.
"There was a particular refugee who comes to mind. She was a little older than me," said Hall, 26. "She spoke English very well and was telling me how her family was separated -- some fled to New Zealand and Australia. These stories are just unimaginable to most people here in the States. I believe that many of us take for granted what we have, the safety and security."
While working in the patient registration area, Hall had the opportunity to speak with a child while passing out toys.
"I was sitting with this little girl named Emine, and I was talking to her," she said. "We were trying to communicate when her mother came up to me and rubbed my hair, and said, 'Mire,' which means 'good.' That was just so rewarding, and I think little experiences like that made all of our work worthwhile."
The group found it rewarding to work with the other organizations also offering aid, and was pleasantly surprised by the positive interaction of the different groups.
"One of the things that surprised me is that, over a week's time, we never had a negative working experience," said Hall. "There were so many people working together in such a small place, yet we didn't have any confrontations. Everyone was just so pleasant and had such a team attitude. We were all working together for the same goal, and it was a nice atmosphere to be in."
Hendery agreed that the small quarters and less-than-perfect conditions didn't affect the attitudes of the volunteers.
"I think that any time you are involved in a volunteer effort, there's a feeling of camaraderie among the people working," said Hendery. "The common goal is to help these people, and it's so tangible because you're right there and you see firsthand who you're helping.
"I felt lucky to be a part of it," he added. "I really didn't know what to expect, but I just knew it would be an unforgettable experience." ( by Bonnie Flock)
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