In San Diego, California, Iraqi refugee kids have found solace and community on the soccer field.
YALLA , a youth soccer and education program for refugee children, was started by Mark Kabban, a 24-year-old whose family fled Lebanon during the Civil War.
A few years ago, Mark was working as a refugee case manager and says, during his family visits, he'd ask the children what they wanted to be doing. The answer was always the same: play soccer.
One day, he brought out a soccer ball in the apartment complex where some of the refugee families lived.
"I starting kicking it around with a few kids and the next thing I knew there were 25 kids wanting to play. That was my inspiration to start YALLA."
Since Mark started YALLA last year, the kids in the program have made strides on and off the soccer field. They are getting along better with other kids, learning English and slowly, their wounds from war are beginning to heal.
Many of the kids in the program have lost one or both parents in the war and some have witnessed their family members being killed, Mark says. "These kids have been living their entire lives as refugees, they fled their country and would go to Turkey or they would go to Jordan, Syria or Lebanon and pretty much be trapped in the house the entire day. They didn't have places to play and places to interact with other kids in a healthy environment."
YALLA has grown very quickly and serves 150 elementary, middle and high school kids. Next on Mark's agenda is to start a peace-building soccer league in El Cajon, the eastern San Diego community where many refugee families live.
In that community, he says, "there's been a lot of ethnic tension and violence between the other marginalized kids in the community -- African American kids, Latinos and refugees."
Mark's hope is to bring all the different groups together and have them play on the same team to promote healthy interactions. Mark is nominated for a Do Something Award , which would grant him $100,000. His dream, he says, is to use the funds to build a peace-building charter school for the kids of El Cajon.
How can you help the world's refugees? Find out on TakePart.com .
Read more about sports stars and other celeb causes on TakePart.com.