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Access yields engaging story of US couple rescuing Afghans

Ihsanullah Patan, left, a horticulturist and refugee from Afghanistan, sits for a portrait with Caroline Clarin, right, whom he worked with in Afghanistan, and her wife, Sheril Raymond, at his home in Fergus Falls, Minn., Oct. 29, 2021. A U.S. Department of Agriculture adviser in Afghanistan, Clarin and her wife have been using their own time and money to get Afghans who worked for her program out of the country. Those who have started their life in the remote town of Fergus Falls near the North Dakota border say they consider the couple family. (AP Photo / David Goldman)

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The team of San Diego reporter Julie Watson, photographer David Goldman and his colleague in global enterprise, video journalist Allen Breed, with digital storyteller Samantha Shotzbarger, used remarkable access to chronicle an Afghan family settling into heartland America thanks to the efforts of a dedicated couple.

Watson had previously reported on Afghans fleeing to the U.S. She used farmer Caroline Clarin as a resource; Clarin worked as an agricultural adviser in Afghanistan and now works to rescue her Afghan contacts threatened by the Taliban. Meanwhile, Goldman was looking for a newly immigrated family to follow. He connected with Watson and Breed, the trio traveling to Fergus Falls, Minnesota, where, thanks to the trust Watson had built with Clarin, they had exceptional access to Clarin, her wife and the Patans, an Afghan family the couple “adopted” after paying to fly them to the U.S.

The team captured intimate details of both families’ daily lives in all formats: the family gatherings, the Patan kids’ school days and life on the farm. Clarin and her wife talked about their worries — the expenses they were accruing to rescue Afghans, but more so, their fears for those still left behind. The text story also looked at the bureaucratic hurdles of getting families out of Afghanistan, and Breed gathered sound for an audio story,written by Samantha Shotzbarger, voiced by Watson. Shotzbarger also brought all the elements together in a compelling presentation.

The package,running on the eve of Thanksgiving,resonated with readers. It records one woman’s dedication to the daunting task of bringing Afghans to the U.S., and the loving relationship built between a farm couple and a traditional Afghan family in rural Minnesota.

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