Houston's Iraqi refugee community is saying a painful goodbye to one of its most valued members. Now Marwan Hamza's friends are scrambling to help his family do the same.
Hamza, 22, is on his deathbed at Memorial Herman hospital after crashing his car earlier this week. Hamza's work with U.S. troops in Iraq forced him to flee alone for a refugee camp in Ankara, Turkey. There he used his nearly flawless English to help with security and translation at a refugee support organization, whose founder wrote him a recommendation letter when he left for the United States.
"I have never met a refugee with this kind of attitude, who willingly and positvely offered help with no expectation of anything in return," the letter reads.
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Hamza also received a certificate of appreciation from the 58th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
He continued to help fellow refugees after arriving in Houston this January, according to Dario Lipovac, the resettlement director at the local office of YMCA International, which oversaw Hamza's transition. He did everything from translating during airport pick-ups to bailing people out of jail.
"Nothing was too hard for him," Lipovac says. "Everyone loved that kid."
Hamza's family would need a temporary visa in order to visit. Lipovac has spoken with the family but has not been able to reach the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. YMCA International has contacted Congressman Al Green's office about the visa. The case worker handling the request says she expects an answer from the State Department by the end of the day.