To any other Iranian, life for Seyedehsan Atri was great. But for the 31 year old, something was off.
Seyedehsan wanted the right to question the beliefs that had been pushed on him by his family and government in Kermanshah, Iran, where he was born and lived for 26 years. To question faith in Iran is one of the most severe crimes one can commit.
Feeling religious oppression, Seyedehsan fled to Turkey in 2010, leaving behind his mother, Sedigheh, and two brothers, Kamal and Mohsen. His father, Jalal, died 15 years ago.
Ehsan, as his close friends call him, was ultimately starting life over. He began to train as a welder and even seek faith on his own.
One night Ehsan heard a loud voice call out, “I hear you!” He had been asking God for direction since leaving his home country.
To him the voice was one of two things: Either he was going crazy or God was telling him to keep going. Ehsan prayed, “God if that is you, please talk to me again. I want to hear your voice!”
Just a few months later he heard the same voice exclaim, “Ehsan!” To him this was very significant as only his close friends called him Ehsan. From that moment forward Ehsan felt that he was a friend of God.
In 2013, Ehsan had the opportunity to come to the United States as a refugee where he received an apartment and a job. Unfortunately for Ehsan, one of his first memories as an American was feeling oppressed by coworkers for his ethnicity and his new faith in God.
“I regretted coming to America,” Ehsan said.
He was struggling to make minimum wage and began to search for any opportunity to get back into welding. Because he had no money and very minimal English, Ehsan did not know where to turn.
This changed on Mar. 3, 2014. On this date, Ehsan walked into the doors of The Lantern Project training office in Clarkston, Ga.
Ehsan’s classmates nicknamed him “Angry Man” because he had trouble controlling the volume of his voice as he learned English. Simple questions to Ehsan would result in very loud, class-interrupting answers.
Despite his nickname, Ehsan has joy unlike anyone you would ever meet and an ambition for success that is unparalleled. On one occasion, Ehsan showed up to the office uncharacteristically late – a whole five minutes – because he had received two tickets from hurrying to class after work.
He was evidently upset, but not for reasons one might suspect. The tickets did not bother him, but he was upset for being five minutes late to class.
Through The Lantern Project’s program, Ehsan completed his studies in general construction and welding and obtained employment. In just over one year, he was on his way from a dead-end job making minimum wage to a current salary two times that of his former job.
“I feel like I am achieving the American dream for the first time,” he said.
Ehsan was hired by Shaw Almex Fusion, LLC, which manufactures custom presses for a range of rubber products, including applications in the mining, textile and aerospace industries. Headquartered in Decatur, Ga., the company exports these custom presses around the world to countries that include China, Australia, Japan, Africa, Europe and South America.
“I really appreciate this training school, because it has changed my life,” Ehsan said. In The Lantern Project training office, we no longer call him Angry Man; he’s Happy Man.