“We’ll take care of it.”
Without a moment’s hesitation, that’s what Houston attorney Steve Mostyn said after hearing the story of 8-year old Zaid, a boy from Mexico who was severely injured and disfigured in a fire at his home.
“What Zaid went through instantly resonated with me, especially as a father,” Mostyn said. “I saw a bright, resilient kid, similar to my own son, and I knew we needed to help him and his mom get back on their feet. It was an incredibly humbling experience that I felt honored to be a part of.”
Helping Zaid fell to Monte Osburn, executive director of the Glenda Jean Mostyn and Joe E. Moreno Educational Foundation (Mostyn Moreno), founded by Steve Mostyn and his wife, Amber. Osburn had met Zaid at the foundation’s annual Christmas Lights program. The program helps children with special needs learn life skills and celebrate the Holidays by bringing them to a local retail store to pick out their own Christmas gifts and enjoy lunch with teachers and family.
“Despite all he’d been through, he had such a wonderful personality and bright disposition,” Osburn said. “He deserved an opportunity to have a stable home and food to eat. He just needed a break.”
Zaid and his mother had come to the United States to seek treatment for the burns that left Zaid without a nose, lips, ears, or fingers. Doctors even had to seal his eyelids, rendering him blind. To obtain the best treatment possible, Zaid and his mother, Otaidia, received a visa to travel monthly from their home in interior Mexico to the burn unit at Shriners Hospital for Children – Galveston.
The constant back-and-forth across the border ultimately proved financially and physically unsustainable, however. Eventually, the mother and son stopped returning to Mexico and overstayed their visas, becoming illegal residents of the United States. Their immigration status meant that Otaidia could not find work legally. She started taking any job she could find to support herself and her son, but still fell short financially. When Osburn met Zaid, the pair was living in a two-story house with six other families, renting out the landing of the second-floor staircase. Their living space only had enough room for a full-sized mattress, and was separated from the other families with a curtain. This arrangement cost them $200 a month – and Otaidia could barely afford it.
Mostyn, founder of Mostyn Law, a Houston-based law firm that specializes in insurance litigation, instructed Osburn to find Zaid and Otaidia a place to live and got an immigration attorney to begin working on the family’s case pro bono.
With the foundation’s help over the course of two-and-a-half years, the family was able to move into an apartment of their own. An immigration attorney that the foundation cajoled into taking Zaid’s case pro bono managed to secure a green card for Otaidia.
“It was like flipping a light switch,” Osburn said. “You could just see that self-esteem rising, not only with Zaid but with mom, too. When you don’t have the weight of the world on your shoulders any more, it does wonders for you.”
Zaid has since enrolled in the Texas School for the Blind, and his mother is working legally to support them. The two no longer need the foundation’s support.
“Zaid and his mom’s story, that’s the personification of the Mostyn Moreno mission,” Osburn said. “You identify a child with disabilities or special needs, and you do whatever it takes to get them to the point where they’re self-sufficient and independent, as best as they can be.”