Matine Khalighi / Helping the Homeless Colorado / He grew up wanting for nothing. Now he gives other students a leg up.

by Chandra Thomas Whitfield CSM Correspondent from United States

145794Matine Khalighi poses with student volunteers before handing out bags of basic necessities to Denver residents experiencing homelessness in the summer of 2019.Courtesy of Matine Khalighi

February 1, 2021

Five years ago, Matine Khalighi was living a comfortable life near Denver. The son of an emergency room doctor dad and a clinical pharmacist mom, the 14-year-old honors student wanted for nothing. Like many teens, he’d found himself yearning to better understand the world, how it worked, and why certain things were the way they were. 

In particular, he wondered why his life seemed so dramatically different from that of the people he’d often see asking passersby for money, food, and shelter.

He recalls riding home from cross-country running practice and seeing people asking for help. “I’m living this life where I’m going home to have dinner and there’s this person just sitting out there holding a sign,” recalls Mr. Khalighi, who turned 19 in January. “And I’m like, ‘why is that OK,’ especially in the United States, which is supposed to be one of the wealthiest and best places on earth to live, that so many people are living in poverty?”

And so, at 14, an age when many teens are preoccupied with their own experiences, he set out to better understand the circumstances of others and to explore difficult questions about privilege, access, and inequality in society.

Some of the answers he sought came when he enrolled in a community service class at Campus Middle School in Greenwood Village, Colorado, where he and his classmates raised money for children in the foster care system. Helping out felt good, he says. The project also opened up his eyes to the great need that existed among people experiencing homelessness in Colorado.

That first school project lit a fire in him and he felt that he had to do more to help. So what began as an informal group of friends passing out care packages to those in need in downtown Denver on weekends evolved in 2016 into a youth-led nonprofit, Helping the Homeless Colorado, which helped to raise more than $130,000 to provide basic necessities. More than 25,000 people engaged with the group’s 2019 #SpreadTheLove campaign, which invited Coloradoans to share, with permission, photos and videos of themselves talking with someone experiencing homelessness. 

“This is truly a student-run operation and they have managed to pull this all off magnificently,” says Donald Burnes, a former Helping the Homeless Colorado board member. “They all deserve a great commendation and many cheers,” he says.

Page created on 10/21/2021 11:13:40 PM

Last edited 11/12/2021 5:54:49 PM

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