Mark's family fled Lebanon during its 15-year civil war, a conflict that claimed the lives of his uncle, his aunt and their infant daughter. During primary school, Mark and his family immigrated to California. Starting a new life in a new country, Mark found stability through sports. His passion for sports would earn him a football scholarship that took him to Baker University located in a small Kansas town. After graduation, Mark went home where at summer’s end he planned to pursue a masters in refugee and migration studies in Egypt. This was until he learned that during his absence San Diego had become the largest refugee resettlement city in the world, and over half of the refugees are under the age of 18.
In 2009, Mark founded Youth And Leaders Living Actively-YALLA, the first and only comprehensive program in California that uses soccer to motivate child survivors of war to help rebuild their lives through its education and eco-therapy program. YALLA’s peace builders’ soccer league is the only one of its kind in the western hemisphere. It brings together child survivors of war from over 10 countries to play on the same teams and learn in the same classrooms.