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 degree and spoke at the graduation ceremony last week about his journey.
“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 into the University of Texas for the fall semester. He plans become a psychologist.
In the years between the attack and arriving in Austin, Hussein received medical care from the U.S. military in Iraq and 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.
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 American-Statesman first featured him, Hussein spoke almost no English. Among other things, he needed a good deal more facial reconstruction.
In 2014, Hussein received training from the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center and Foundation Communities. In 2016, Hussein earned his GED certificate 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 years to visit his family.
“We are truly in this together,” Hussein told the ACC graduation assembly. “Help people every day. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Do it today.”
About Statesman Season for Caring
The 20th Statesman Season for Caring will launch in November. Read past stories at statesman.com/seasonforcaring .