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.”

Season for Caring raises more than $767,000 for local families

On Thanksgiving weekend, we shared the stories of 12 local families, who have incredible stories of resilience in tough times. We asked you to make a difference in their lives.

Many of you have opened up your hearts and given something of yourself, something you no longer needed, purchased something new or have given a monetary donation.

This year, Statesman Season for Caring has raised $592,727.86 in monetary donations and another $175,125 in in-kind donations of goods and services. With $767,852.86, the 2017 Season for Caring is now the third best program year. We are about $73,000 away from having the best Season for Caring ever. Since 1999, Season for Caring has given $11.3 million to the local community.

The Ashour family, refugees from Syria, moved into their new three-bedroom apartment. Cindy Zavala, left, Operations Manager for Star Furniture watches Jana, 3, and the family opens gifts from the company. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

We have so much more to do this year and you have more time to give.

Each year, the Season for Caring partner agencies are tasked to help the featured families’ needs first but then help hundreds of other families  they serve with basic needs such as rent, utilities, groceries, clothing, medical bills and transportation. Season for Caring is these nonprofit organizations’ emergency fund for their clients.

Season for Caring donations will be accepted through Jan. 31 for this year.

You can make your donation online at statesman.com/seasonforcaring. Click the Donate to Season for Caring tab. Or you can find a coupon in the paper each day to mail in your donation or mail it to Austin Community Foundation c/o Statesman Season for Caring, 4315 Guadalupe St., Suite 300, Austin, TX 78751.

Britt Sitzes of National Seating and Mobility shows Haji Mada how to operate his new power chair. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

This Christmas season has been an amazing one for the families featured in Statesman Season for Caring program.

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen Syrian refugees the Ashour family get a new car from AeLK Foundation and Apple Leasing, new bikes from Waste Connections, and a new apartment that was fully furnished by Star Furniture and Chair Whimsy.

We’ve watched the Ríos Marcial family also move into a new apartment furnished by Season for Caring donations.

We’ve seen new beds delivered by Factory Mattress to the featured families, including Marcelo Gracia. We’ve watched him get home care from BrightStar Care and see his son get the opportunity to become a certified nursing assistant and have a future job with BrightStar Care.

Nakayla, left, Nyliah and Nehemiah Johnson stand at the edge of a table full of gifts for them at Grisham Middle School. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

We’ve watched the Grisham Middle School Grizzlies donate more than $8,500 worth of gifts and gift cards to Jazmyne Johnson and her three children.

We went on a shopping spree at Academy with the Matias family and got to see their new accessible bathroom provided by Austin Facility Services.

We’ve seen Nikki Jones and her daughter Adeline light the Driskill Christmas tree.

We’ve seen Lyric Wardlow and all the families get free dental care from Capital Area Dental Foundation.

Steve Shannon of Waste Connections looks on as Donovan Clay, 16, smiles as he about to ride his new bike from Waste Connections. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

We’ve watched Donovan Clay ride a new bike from Waste Connections and visited his mom Bertha Foster, who returned home from a month in the hospital and rehabilitation center. 

We’ve seen the Sherwood family take their fur babies to the Firehouse Animal Center, which offered care to all the families with pets this year. 

We’ve watch 9-year-old Haji Mada try out his new electric wheelchair from National Seating & Mobility and Quantum Rehab, while his mom Hawa Hassan watched, knowing that her child no longer had to crawl on the floor to get around.

We’ve been thrilled to learn that Joyce and Kenneth Marvel no longer have bed bugs and will meet next week with CG&S to talk about remodeling their condominium into a more accessible one.

We’ve also seen how readers reached out to 10-year-old Luis Aguilar Negron with wrestling-themed presents while his sisters Samanta, 25, and Mayleth, 18, got a computer and printer for school.

Many of the families still have needs. Check this list and see if there is something on it that you can give:

The Negron family celebrates after decorating the Dia de los Muertos altar at their home. The Negrons lost their father and husband, Jose, and an uncle in a car accident last year. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The Negron family, who lost their father to a car accident last December, need help with tuition assistance, a used car and car repairs to their existing car, living room furniture and a math tutor for Luis. Foundation Communities, 512-610-7391, foundcom.org.

Kenneth and Joyce Marvel have intellectual disabilities and are struggling to pay their bills.
RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Joyce and Kenneth Marvel, who both have intellectual disabilities and are 74 and 65, need more in-home care for Joyce, who uses a walker, a medical alert system and new all furniture. Family Eldercare, 512-450-0844, familyeldercare.org.

Alden Sherwood participates in an archery tournament at Double G Archery in Georgetown. Suzanne Cordeiro/For American-Statesman

The Sherwood family — Mom Trisha, 40, who has multiple sclerosis; son Alden, 16, who is in a wheelchair after brain cancer; and son Jacob, 13, who is on the autism spectrum — needs an accessible apartment, an assistance dog, help with rent and utilities, grocery store gift cards, art therapy and equine therapy, clothing, and gift cards to the movies or Game Stop. Any Baby Can, 512-454-3743, anybabycan.org.

Jazmyne Johnson, 24, is a single mother of three, from left, Nehemiah, 3, and twins Nakayla and Nyliah, 4. Nakayla has microcephaly, which has caused developmental delays.
RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Jazmyne Johnson, 24, needs a car to transport her children to and from their HeadStart program, an apartment near Hutto and tuition assistance for her to go to college to pursue a career in biotechnology. Opportunities for Williamson and Burnet Counties, 512-763-1400, opportunitiesforwbc.org

Bertha Foster shows her son, Donovan Clay, a picture on Facebook. ANA RAMIREZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Bertha Foster, 43, who is paralyzed from a series of strokes, needs assistance getting a large apartment so she can be moved out of bed more easily as well as a car for Donovan and driver’s education, and a cellphone for him and service. Meals on Wheels Central Texas at 512-476-6325, Ext. 159 or at www.mealsonwheelscentraltexas.org.

Lyric Wardlow works at Playland Skate Center. Wardlow spent most of her childhood homeless.
Erika Rich for American-Statesman

Lyric Wardlow, 19, who grew up homeless, needs tuition assistance, health insurance, gas cards and bus passes, cat food and litter, a gym membership, camping supplies, a cell phone and service, a bedroom furniture set, lamps, dishes and glasses, a vacuum, towels and bedding, gift cards for books and home supplies. LifeWorks, 512-735-2400, lifeworksaustin.org

Hawa Hassan, whose estimated age is 30, sits on the sofa with her three children inside their East Austin apartment. QILING WANG / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Hawa Hassan30, who grew up in a refugee camp in Kenya, needs pots and pans and kitchen utensils, bedding, dressers, after-school tutoring for all the kids, a minivan with a wheelchair lift and driver’s education, and everything for a new baby. Caritas of Austin, 512-646-1277, caritasofaustin.org.

Lance Stumpf, the general manager at the Driskill, helps Adeline Jones, 6, as she lights the Driskill tree. Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Nikki Jones, 35, who has common variable immune deficiency, still has many things on her list including a playhouse or swingset for Adeline, a backyard awning, foundation repair, a dish washer, toothbrushes, colorful adhesive bandages, help with medical bills, a small pet for Adeline, food delivery service, gym membership, and gift cards. Wonders & Worries, 512-329-5757, wondersandworries.org.​

Margarita Matias, 72, who is currently going through treatment for stage four ovarian cancer,  watches television with her son Ricky Felix Perez, 46,who has an intellectual disability, cerebral palsy and testicular cancer. Erika Rich for American – Statesman

Matias family — Margarita, 72, who has ovarian cancer, Jessie, 60, who had kidney cancer, and son Ricky, 46, who has cerebral palsy and testicular cancer — need a wheelchair lift for their truck, ceiling fans, microwave, smartphones, Tejano music CDs, an electrical wiring upgrade, and a new window. CareBox Program, 512-296-2180, careboxprogram.org.

The Ashour family, refugees from Syria, sit at their new dining room table from Chair Whimsy.
RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Ashour family has had many of their needs taken care of. They do need driver’s education for Al Battal. Interfaith Action of Central Texas, 512-386-9145, Ext. 7, interfaithtexas.org.

Rogaciano Rios Marcial, right, watches three of his children explore the family’s new three-bedroom apartment. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Rogaciano Ríos Marcial, 46, who lost his wife in May and is raising his four children alone, needs a TV stand, renter’s insurance, kids books and bookshelves, clothes for 10-year-old Alma, new shoes for all the children, a computer and Internet. Boys & Girls Club of the Austin area at 512-444-7199 or visit bgcaustin.org.

Gael Guadalupe Gracia Garcia raised his father, Marcelo Gracia’s head after it fell forward. RESHMA KIRPALANI / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Marcelo Gracia, 45, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease, needs help with living expenses, more care expenses, a tablet and wireless printer for his son, Gael, who is his main caregiver. Hospice Austin, 512-342-4726, hospiceaustin.org.

 

 

 

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? 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? 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

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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.

Where are they now? Noheli family

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This year Issa Noheli, 63, received something he had dreamed about: a prosthetic leg. He lost his leg 20 years ago in an attack on his Rwandan refugee camp. He is working with a physical therapist to learn how to walk better with his new leg.

March, he received his first-ever prosthetic leg from the Hanger Clinic paid for by Season for Caring donations. Noheli tries out his new leg with the help of prosthetist Jennifer Marchel. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Noheli 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.

This year, Noheli’s oldest daughters were able to move out of the apartment and start their own lives. One got married. Noheli’s younger children are still in school.

Noheli attends English as a second language classes regularly.

Lubna Zeidan, who works with the family on behalf of Interfaith Action of Central Texas, got to see how much of a difference Season for Caring was able to make. She remembers he came to a class, “he was standing, waiting for us to notice that he had two legs,” she says. “The pride on his face … to have that dream fulfilled.”

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