My name is David and I’m a case manager at World Relief. We, at World Relief, wanted to share the story of one of our participants, Hu Ran.
In September 2017, I met Ran and was immediately puzzled by him. Born in China in 1975, Ran looked and seemed completely ordinary. Nothing besides his Christian affiliation suggested that he was someone who could be targeted for persecution. He worked in IT in Beijing translating Mandarin documents into English. His hobbies included table tennis and photography.
Over time, like many refugees, Ran opened up about his story. He told me that he had been a street photographer and began showing me his photos. I was amazed at the compassion his photos rendered towards their subjects and how boldly his photos challenged the status quo. Ran’s love for the poor drew him into Beijing’s hutongs, narrow lanes in a traditional residential area in China. While he sought to capture how people really lived, his love called him into the opulent city plazas where he composed photographs revealing ironic and bold truths. Because of Ran’s humility, I only learned much later that his photos received an award from Magnum Photos and were published by National Geographic. I also learned the degree of admiration was not shared by the authorities in China – who monitored him at work, stalked, harassed him and threatened his family.
Ran fled China and arrived in the U.S. in October 2016. He spent 11 months in the Northwest Detention Center, fighting for political asylum. After receiving asylum on September 18th, 2017, Ran came to World Relief. Through Bel-Pres’ generous donations, World Relief moved Ran into a fully-furnished apartment with roommates. Our on-site ESL teachers helped his English and our job specialists helped Ran create resumes, apply for jobs and shop for work attire. Ran now works part-time at Sea-Tac and attends a Chinese-American church in Federal Way. He’s searching for another part-time job so he can prepare a place for his family and resume his work as a photographer.
“What do you miss about China?” I asked him in an interview.
Ran told me about his four-year-old son, Hu Huaipu, and his wife, Wang Lei. Her name means “flower bud.” Ran misses the hutongs, the narrow streets, and alleyways that line metropolitan Beijing. He misses his idiosyncratic neighbors and the closeness of life in Beijing. “20 million people packed into one city,” he says, fondly. Nostalgically, Ran talks about how he misses his DSLR camera, which he sold for fear of losing it on the journey to America.
“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” I ask him.
Ran tells of his dream to bring his family to America. He talks about the refugees still in the Northwest Detention Center who left a deep impression on him. “I want to do a documentary on refugees and immigrants,” he says. He explains to me that refugees are good people looking for a fresh start and how some people are fearful of refugees. “They need someone in the middle,” Ran tells me, “to help them understand each other. I can do it! Just like the project I did with the peasant workers in the hutongs.”
“What does Huaipu’s name mean?” I ask Ran, curious about his son’s name. Ran pauses for a moment to translate it. “Honest heart,” he says.
We, at World Relief, are honored to know refugees like Ran. They remind us that refugees are made in God’s image; that they brim with creativity and offer a fresh voice from which we have much to learn. Thank you for your generous donations to help refugees like Ran find a new home in America.
Please click here for the National Geographic gallery of Hu Ran’s photography.
Please click here for World Relief Seattle to learn out more about their work with immigrants and refugees.