UND alum and ‘Studio One’ vet pursues job documenting global strife, relief behind the camera

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UND alum and ‘Studio One’ vet pursues job documenting global strife, relief behind the camera

Restlessness can creep up in any career.

Sometimes it comes from predictability in the 9 to 5. Sometimes it comes after years in the same job. But sometimes it comes as subtle preparation for your next step.

University of North Dakota alumnus Nathan Shain, a veteran of the school’s award-winning television show, Studio One, has worked as a news photographer at WDAY in Fargo, then in Springfield, Mo. After a few years of building his portfolio, Shain, who grew up in rural Kansas, was doing well at a Kansas City, Mo., news station, 41 Action News ? KSHB, when restlessness found him.

At KSHB, ranked 31 of 210 in the Nielsen market, Shain was able to expand his skillset by working as a multi-media journalist, “one-man-banding” several news stories and perfecting his craft. However, he knew deep down he wanted to tell a different story than a 1-minute-and-15-second package to run on the 6 and 10.

“I was feeling a little restless in my job,” says Shain, a 2006 UND graduate, about his days in Kansas City. “I was looking for something different to do. I’ve always wanted to produce a documentary and was looking for an opportunity to tell a larger story.”

At the same time, half a world away, South Sudan was becoming an independent country. They were splitting from Sudan where there had been decades of fighting and, in some cases, genocide. KSHB was covering stories on the South Sudanese population in Kansas City, and Shain met a South Sudanese man whose mission was to build a school in his native village. After meeting with him a few times, Shain decided he would go with him. He wanted to shoot a documentary about the new school in this brand new country.

“It was the craziest adventure I’ve ever been on,” Shain recalls. “I had never been out of the country before and South Sudan is diving into the deepest of the deep ends. I was very naïve and in over my head. But it was an amazing experience looking back on it.”

While he never produced a full documentary, he did shoot three longer news packages that ran on KSHB. Almost ten minutes of air time over three nights in a top 40 market is a proud accomplishment for anyone in the business.

This brief international stint would end up being his first step out of restlessness and into his next professional endeavor.

World Vision

Later, while attending a news training session, Shain met a woman who used to work for World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. She shared her experience of travelling the globe and telling stories on behalf of children, families and communities. Once again, this type of work resonated with Shain. He showed her his work in Africa and asked for some feedback. A few months later, Shain got a call from that woman. She heard about a job opening for a video producer at World Vision headquarters and thought of Shain right away. He interviewed, accepted the job and moved to Seattle with his wife.

Now Shain travels the world: Ethiopia (twice), South Sudan, Rwanda, Ghana, Zambia (twice), Kenya, Guatemala, Peru, Dominican Republic, Armenia, and Lebanon ? all in the last three years. He’ll usually edit about five to six videos from each trip, each one with its own purpose. His main duty is storytelling: sharing what World Vision is doing in other countries and telling the untold stories of people they’re helping.

In March, Shain traveled to Lebanon for a trip that’s been unlike any other.

“One evening we were very close to the mountains that border Syria and Lebanon and we could hear a steady stream of bombing on the Syrian side,” he said. “One of the local communicators who was there helping us looked on his phone and it was only a 13-minute car ride away.”

The Syrian civil war has just entered its fifth year, and the humanitarian crisis it’s caused has only gotten worse. Shain says the conflict in Syria has no real end in sight, causing millions of refugees to be stuck in other countries. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), since 2011, 9 million people from Syria have fled their homes. Of those, 3.7 million are scattered across Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey (Syria’s immediate neighbors). There is little aid, and most of the people are jobless and homeless. The refugees seek shelter in tents and abandoned buildings. A large number of the children are not in school, and haven’t been for as long as five years.

“It was really very sad to see that people who have fled such a scene of nightmare and violence were now stuck in an existence of poverty,” Shain said. “I consider myself pretty informed to what is happening in the world, and I wasn’t prepared for everything I saw.”

Tough assignment

Shain says World Vision is trying to provide people with basic needs, such as water and sanitation. In Lebanon, groups of people are renting land from local farmers. They form tent communities in the middle of fields. There is no source of water, nowhere for waste to go. World Vision has built water storage tanks as well as latrines that provide clean water and the removal of human waste. They’ve also created “Child Friendly Spaces,” where kids can go to just be kids. For many, it’s the only kind of school experience they get. Shain said it was tough to hear children talk about their flight out of Syria, bombs dropping and seeing people killed.

“It’s been five years and very little of the world has been focused on the people of Syria. And also, how beautiful and gracious the people of Syria are,” Shain said. “Families that didn’t know where their next meal was coming from wouldn’t hesitate to offer us what little bit of coffee or tea they had. It was very humbling.”

Shain’s trip to Lebanon might have been one of his tougher assignments and worlds away from the Kansas City news station; a complicated war, millions affected, and minimal solutions. But his job allows him to tell the stories that the world might otherwise turn a blind eye to. He hopes his videos can shed some light on this dark time in history for the people of Syria, and encourage more aid to be sent to the country.

When restlessness crept up in Shain’s career, it led him to tell a larger story that does more than inform- it inspires; it spurs action.

To see some of Nathan’s videos of Lebanon and to give financially to World Vision’s efforts in Syria, visit http://mycause.worldvision.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=1933 .

Stephanie Flyger University & Public Affairs writer

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