Mark Kabban, CNN Hero, Helps Young Refugee Transition Through Soccer

CNN Hero Uses Soccer, Mentoring To Help Young Refugees Transition To U.S.

Mark Kabban was just 9-years-old when he and his family moved from Beirut to the United States. Now, he's making sure other refugees have a smooth transition.

Kabban, a CNN Hero, started a program in San Diego, Calif., called YALLA, which means "Let's go" in Arabic, and stands for Youth And Leaders Living Actively. The program combines a love of soccer and need for education to soften the transition to a new life and new country for young refugees, CNN reports.

"I saw a lot of kids just idle, alienated," Kabban told the news source. "Having a normal childhood is something they really deserve...[and] soccer is an escape. It's confidence. It's making them feel like they belong, and it's just fun."

Two-hundred refugees from Africa, Asia and the Middle East make up YALLA -- a program that includes tutoring and mentoring as well. And most importantly, it gives young people a chance to connect and build friendships.

"They help me to find friends, and they teach me how to speak English," Khalid Yohana, one of the program partipants, told CNN. "Now with YALLA and Coach Mark, it's a fun life."

Kabban says he's simply humbled.

"Their families have sacrificed everything for their kids to have a better life," Kabban said. "If we can do anything to help them, its my honor."

Feeling inspired? Learn more about YALLA, here.

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