Season for Caring client Qusay Hussein graduates from ACC

In 2006, Qusay Hussein was left for dead after a suicide attack in his native Mosul, Iraq. The explosion blew off his face and left him blind.

In 2018, Hussein donned the robes of a recipient of an Austin Community College associate’s degree and spoke at the graduation ceremony last week about his journey.

Qusay Hussein at his ACC graduation ceremony where he spoke about his past and future. Contributed

“Each one of us has something to learn and something to teach,” he told the cheering crowd. “This country has given me the opportunity of hope for a new life.”

Hussein, 29, also received the ACC presidential student achievement award and was accepted the University of Texas for the fall semester. He plans become a psychologist.

In the intervening years, Hussein received medical care from the U.S. military in Iraq, from Doctors without Borders at a refugee camp in Jordan. But he did not receive trauma counseling early on.

In Austin, he was assisted regularly by Interfaith Action of Central Texas, an interfaith action group that works with refugees, among other causes. All along, Hussein said he wanted to counsel others who have gone through traumatic stress, especially the loss of sight.

ORIGINAL: Blinded by a bomb, Iraqi refugee seeks to counsel others.

In 2013, Hussein was the focus of the Statesman’s Season for Caring campaign that each year highlights the needs of about a dozen Central Texas families and helps hundreds of others through reader donations. Since 1999, American-Statesman readers have given more than $11.6 million in cash and in-kind donations, including a record-setting 2017 year, in which more than $1 million was raised for local nonprofit organizations.

When the Statesman first featured him, Hussein spoke almost no English. Among other things, he needed a good deal more facial reconstruction.

Qusay Hussein has had more than 50 surgeries on his face after a car bomb in Iraq blinded him when he was 17. RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2013

In 2014, Huessin received training from the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center and Foundation Communities. In 2016, Hussein earned his GED from ACC. He also received intense help that year from Austin surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Cone, who reworked his face and nasal passage. Season for Caring donations have helped him be able to receive his education.

Soon, Hussein will return to Iraq for the first time in more than five years to visit his family.

“We are truly in this together,” Hussein told the graduation assembly. “Help people every day. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Do it today.”

Where are they now: Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez 

“I’m not going to lie to you,” Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez says. “But it’s really hard for me because every time when I see the picture of Adriana and Emely, I just can’t believe.”

Rodriguez-Lopez, 27, first lost his wife, Adriana, last August from cervical cancer. Then in December his 4-year-old daughter, Emely, became sick with leukemia. She died Jan. 5.

Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez plays with his daughter Emely Rodriguez-Aviles.
Kelly West/AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2016

The family was part of the Statesman Season for Caring program last year. Every year, the Statesman tells the story of 12 families who have been nominated to the program by local nonprofit organizations. We invite the community and local businesses to donate a gift of money or goods or services on the families’ wish lists. Donations are given to the featured families first, and then, every year, Season for Caring funds help hundreds of other families through the selected nonprofit agencies.

Last year, Season for Caring raised more than $840,000 to help the community. On Nov. 26, we’ll introduce you to 12 new families who need your help, but first, we take a look back at the families from last year and share how they are doing.

Rodriguez-Lopez is currently living and working in Alabama, where he is close to his brother. He isn’t sure if he will stay there or come back to Texas.

To make a donation to Season for Caring, go to statesman.com/seasonforcaring.

Where are they now? The family of Rosalba Martínez-López

“It’s a little bit hard,” says Ana Anacleto Martínez, the daughter of  Rosalba Martínez-López, who died Dec. 2 from cervical cancer. She was 37.

Rosabla Martínez-López hold her granddaughter Sofia Guerrero Mondragón as her daughter Kimberley Mondragón-Martínez looks on during their visit at the Hospice Austin’s Christopher House. 
RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The family was part of the Statesman Season for Caring program last year. Every year, the Statesman tells the story of 12 families who have been nominated to the program by local nonprofit organizations. We invite the community and local businesses to donate a gift of money or goods or services on the families’ wish lists. Donations are given to the featured families first, and then, every year, Season for Caring funds help hundreds of other families through the selected nonprofit agencies.

Last year, Season for Caring raised more than $840,000 to help the community. On Nov. 26, we’ll introduce you to 12 new families who need your help, but first, we take a look back at the families from last year and share how they are doing.

Rosalba Martínez-López’s four children and granddaughter were able to have a funeral for her using Season for Caring funds. The kids are now living between the homes of oldest daughter Anacleto Martínez, 22, and their aunt, Laura Martínez-Devalerio.

The kids, Anacleto Martínez says “always talk about Mom and this and that. It’s kind of hard.”

Anacleto Martínez hopes to return to school in January after taking a break to take care of her siblings.

To make a donation to Season for Caring, go to statesman.com/seasonforcaring.

Where are they now? The King family

Sheila King, 50, and her family have made it through the loss of son Austen, father Harrell and her mother Janie. This year, son Michael and daughter-in-law Lena welcomed baby Xander.

Sheila King, center, thanks the owners of Austin’s Couch Potatoes, Daniel Anthony, left, and brothers Brian and Travis Morgan, who donated furniture to King and her family. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

King was part of the Statesman Season for Caring program last year. Every year, the Statesman tells the story of 12 families who have been nominated to the program by local nonprofit organizations. We invite the community and local businesses to donate a gift of money or goods or services on the families’ wish lists. Donations are given to the featured families first, and then, every year, Season for Caring funds help hundreds of other families through the selected nonprofit agencies.

Last year, Season for Caring raised more than $840,000 to help the community. On Nov. 26, we’ll introduce you to 12 new families who need your help, but first, we take a look back at the families from last year and share how they are doing.

The Kings needed major home repairs and got some of them, including new kitchen counters and sinks from New Stone Concepts. They also received new furniture from Austin’s Couch Potatoes.

Recently, King has been hospitalized for an autoimmune disorder.

To make a donation to Season for Caring, go to statesman.com/seasonforcaring.

Where are they now? Deloris Fields

Deloris Fields, 27, and her son, Connor, 1, have been able to move into a first-floor apartment in Taylor this year. Fields has stage four breast cancer which has been in her bones. She needed the first-floor apartment to make it easier on her.

Deloris Fields has her makeup applied by artist Kewal Hausmann in preparation for the 2017 Art Bra Austin in June. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Fields was part of the Statesman Season for Caring program last year. Every year, the Statesman tells the story of 12 families who have been nominated to the program by local nonprofit organizations. We invite the community and local businesses to donate a gift of money or goods or services on the families’ wish lists. Donations are given to the featured families first, and then, every year, Season for Caring funds help hundreds of other families through the selected nonprofit agencies.

Last year, Season for Caring raised more than $840,000 to help the community. On Nov. 26, we’ll introduce you to 12 new families who need your help, but first, we take a look back at the families from last year and share how they are doing.

At Art Bra Austin in June, Deloris Field holds up an image of her son, Connor, and says that she owes her all to him. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Fields has returned to the hospital recently, but she was able to walk the runway at Art Bra Austin in June. She also was able to have some of the damage done by cancer treatments repaired to her teeth through a donation of dental care from Capital Area Dental Foundation.

To make a donation to Season for Caring, go to statesman.com/seasonforcaring.

Where are they now? Ashley McGill

Ashley McGill, 31, has been on disability insurance from her job after a head injury from a car accident. She continues to see doctors and hopes for a treatment that will allow her to return to work.

 

Gifts donated by the community at Grisham Middle School take up a much of the living room in the apartment where Ashley McGill lives with her children, Preston Mao and Alyanna McGill-Mao. Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Ashley McGill was part of the Statesman Season for Caring program last year. Every year, the Statesman tells the story of 12 families who have been nominated to the program by local nonprofit organizations. We invite the community and local businesses to donate a gift of money or goods or services on the families’ wish lists. Donations are given to the featured families first, and then, every year, Season for Caring funds help hundreds of other families through the selected nonprofit agencies.

Last year, Season for Caring raised more than $840,000 to help the community. On Nov. 26, we’ll introduce you to 12 new families who need your help, but first, we take a look back at the families from last year and share how they are doing.

Season for Caring, McGill says, “was such a major help and such a relief to be able to have the assistance I did have. It was a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders so I could breathe.”

Her family got to light the Christmas tree at the Driskill Hotel and stay the night. They also were surrounded by love and Christmas presents when Grisham Middle School completed their wish list.

Season for Caring also helped keep a roof over the family’s head at times when her disability payment didn’t arrive. She also is finally able to sleep in a bed again. Factory Mattress donated an adjustable bed to her that allows her to sleep with her head propped up.

To make a donation to Season for Caring, go to statesman.com/seasonforcaring.

Where are they now? Francisco Zuñiga-Echeverria

Francisco Zuñiga-Echeverria, 29, is also in school in a pastry and culinary arts program. He grew up in foster care after his parents died and was then homeless

Saleem Assaf of Better Hearing Center of Austin fits Francisco Zuñiga-Echeverria for hearing aids. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

Zuñiga-Echeverria was part of the Statesman Season for Caring program last year. Every year, the Statesman tells the story of 12 families who have been nominated to the program by local nonprofit organizations. We invite the community and local businesses to donate a gift of money or goods or services on the families’ wish lists. Donations are given to the featured families first, and then, every year, Season for Caring funds help hundreds of other families through the selected nonprofit agencies.

Last year, Season for Caring raised more than $840,000 to help the community. On Nov. 26, we’ll introduce you to 12 new families who need your help, but first, we take a look back at the families from last year and share how they are doing.

One of the things he really wanted was a green scooter. He was able to get one, though it has needed repairs at times. He also was able to get new hearing aids from Better Hearing Center of Austin and eyeglasses from Northwest Hills Eye Care.

“Things I got made my life much easier,” he says. “I have my own transport (kind of) and I am able to hear slightly better, and see well, so it made an impact to be more independent.”

 

To make a donation to Season for Caring, go to statesman.com/seasonforcaring.

Where are they now? Maricela Garcia

Maricela Garcia, 43, will begin school in January to become a certified nursing assistant. This will help her support her son, Raymond, 10, who has Renpenning syndrome, which causes intellectual disabilities.

Maricela Garcia cares for her son Raymond Alejandro Martinez-Garcia at their apartment. JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Garcia was part of the Statesman Season for Caring program last year. Every year, the Statesman tells the story of 12 families who have been nominated to the program by local nonprofit organizations. We invite the community and local businesses to donate a gift of money or goods or services on the families’ wish lists. Donations are given to the featured families first, and then, every year, Season for Caring funds help hundreds of other families through the selected nonprofit agencies.

Last year, Season for Caring raised more than $840,000 to help the community. On Nov. 26, we’ll introduce you to 12 new families who need your help, but first, we take a look back at the families from last year and share how they are doing.

This year, Garcia was able to learn how to drive and received a car through Season for Caring.

“It was beautiful,” she says of what the program did for her family. “Everything I need for Raymond, I got. Thank you. Thank you.”

To make a donation to Season for Caring, go to statesman.com/seasonforcaring.

Where are they now? Fazal Ahmad family

Mukhtar Abdul Jabbar, 20, a refugee from Afghanistan by way of Pakistan, is soon going to be able to better support his family — mother Uliya Fazal Ahmad, 49, and siblings Palwasha, 18, Nisar, 17, Nazi, 16, and Feroza, 13.

The Fazal Ahmad family — Mukhtar Abdul Jabbar, left, Feroza Abdul Jabbar, Palwasha Abdul Jabbar, , Uliya Fazal Ahmad, Nazi Abdul Jabbar and Nisar Abdul Jabbar —
arrived from Afghanistan last summer. They are enjoying a meal at their apartment in Austin.
Rodolfo Gonzalez/AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Abdul Jabbar and his family were part of the Statesman Season for Caring program last year. Every year, the Statesman tells the story of 12 families who have been nominated to the program by local nonprofit organizations. We invite the community and local businesses to donate a gift of money or goods or services on the families’ wish lists. Donations are given to the featured families first, and then, every year, Season for Caring funds help hundreds of other families through the selected nonprofit agencies.

Last year, Season for Caring raised more than $840,000 to help the community. On Nov. 26, we’ll introduce you to 12 new families who need your help, but first, we take a look back at the families from last year and share how they are doing.

He is now attending a program to learn how to repair heating and air-conditioning systems as well as help him learn English. He’s also working at the Driskill Hotel as a dishwasher and been able to get a car and become engaged. Nisar has pickaed up a job at Whataburger. Nisar, Palwasha, Nazi and Feroza are still in school.

Fazal Ahmad, who had trouble walking because of a bad ankle, was able to connect with doctors and is now taking medication to help with the pain. She’s also taking classes to improve her English.

“Everything is good, and we are very happy,” Mukhtar Abdul Jabbar says.

 

 

To make a donation to Season for Caring, go to statesman.com/seasonforcaring.

Where are they now? Vasquez Olais family

[cmg_anvato video =”3920479″]

This year, Keila Vasquez, 20, was able to start school at Avenue Five Institute to become a cosmetologist. “It was something I wanted to do since I was young,” she says. She’ll be through with school in about eight months, which will help her support her family — partner Luis Olais, 22, and their two children, Delilah, 3, and Noah, 1.

Liliana De La Paz Carrillo gets her son Juan Diego ready to use the new ramp at their home. Juan Diego and his brother, Jesús, have spinal muscular atrophy type 2, which causes a weakening and loss of muscle mass. Both boys have wheelchairs, and Juan Diego now has a ventilator and a feeding tube. The disease comes with a life expectancy of 20. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

Vasquez and her family were part of the Statesman Season for Caring program last year. Every year, the Statesman tells the story of 12 families who have been nominated to the program by local nonprofit organizations. We invite the community and local businesses to donate a gift of money or goods or services on the families’ wish lists. Donations are given to the featured families first, and then, every year, Season for Caring funds help hundreds of other families through the selected nonprofit agencies.

Last year, Season for Caring raised more than $840,000 to help the community. On Nov. 26, we’ll introduce you to 12 new families who need your help, but first, we take a look back at the families from last year and share how they are doing.

Olais and Delilah both have a genetic syndrome that affects connective tissue and causes chronic pain. This year the family found out that Noah does not have it.

Season for Caring, she says, “They did so much.” The family moved into its own apartment using Season for Caring funds. It was furnished with a donation from Star Furniture.

The family is on its way toward self-sufficiency. With pride, Vasquez says of their apartment lease, “We renewed the second year again by ourselves.”

To make a donation to Season for Caring, go to statesman.com/seasonforcaring.