Iraqi youth share stories of survival: Teens honored at a charity gala in Coronado

SAN DIEGO - Eight teenagers who fled the violence in Iraq shared their incredible stories of survival at a charity gala this weekend. "If I hadn't left Iraq, I would have been dead," said Levai Kina. 

Kina came to the United States from Iraq seven years ago. He says his family was one of many forced out by terrorists because they were Christian and his father worked for Americans. 

"We got a letter in our backyard saying if we don't evacuate our house, our house would have gotten bombed and they would have kidnapped my dad," Kina said. 

Kina is one of eight young refugees who came to San Diego County to start over. Part of their journey involved being a part of a mentorship program put on by the nonprofit groups Roads of Success and Life Without Limbs

The teenagers shared their experiences at a fundraiser for the organization Saturday where they were honored for working toward their goals in the face of adversity. 

"With the Iraqi crisis going on today there's so many new kids that are going to be coming in and they're going to be lost unless they have the right mentorship," said Jacqueline Isaac. 

Volunteers with Roads of Success reached out to city and county leaders, including San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts, who mentored one of the teens aspiring to be an architect like Roberts. 

"To the extent that we can broaden the horizons for each of these young people to give them all the options, let them choose what they really want to do, and that's what I tell them," said Roberts. 

As the violence in Iraq continues, the teens watch and hope their stories serve as inspiration that despite the odds, never give up on your dreams. 

"It's the land of opportunity and I came here to get my opportunity and finish my studying and become a dentist," said Alwaled Altaay. 

The charity gala also featured an anti-bullying campaign. Motivational speaker Nick Vujicic, who is with Life Without Limbs, was a guest speaker. 

by Kandiss Crone

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