11-Year-Old Elected To Seat On Board Of Directors For Homeless Non Profit

Natthan Mesfin is a young man with a very big dream: the Orinda 11-year-old wants to end homelessness in his lifetime.

"It just isn't fair," Mesfin said. "Here I am comfortable in my house and there are people dying out in the cold."

While ending such a chronic societal problem may seem like a tall order for such a small person, Mesfin has already made a name for himself in the field. He was recently elected to the board of directors for Downtown Streets Team, a San Jose-based nonprofit engaging with the homeless to help them find employment and housing.

For such a young man, 11-year-old Natthan Mesfin sure has a big dream: to end homelessness in his lifetime.

It is, however, something the 11-year-old from Orinda is in a unique position to do. Mesfin was recently elected to the board of directors for Downtown Streets Team.

"I was stoked. Really happy," Mesfin said of his election.

Mesfin's humanitarian work began two Christmases ago while watching television. He saw a story about the plight of the homeless on the news, the headed downstairs to where his parents and their friends had gathered to celebrate the holiday.

"I saw people on the news that are dying because of being too cold so then I just came down here, sat right where I'm sitting right now. And I just said, we need to we need to do something"

What Mesfin ended up doing was raising money to buy sleeping bags then handing them out to the homeless he saw on the streets of San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley.

"It was it was fantastic," Mesfin said of the experience. "I mean like most of them were they were really happy and when they were happy that just made me happy."

In his first year, Mesfin raised $2,000 and handed out 50 sleeping bags. The second year, he raised $5,000.

"I was hungry for more. I wanted to get more money, buy more sleeping bags, do more things."

One of the "things" Mesfin did, was to get in touch with Eileen Richardson, Executive Director of Downtown Streets Team, hoping they could help with his sleeping bag giveaway.

Richardson explained to Mesfin that DST's unique model of helping the homeless focused more on gaining the confidence and skills needed to get off the streets and less on donations of goods.

They couldn't really use the sleeping bags. But, perhaps, they could use Mesfin.

Richardson was more than a little impressed with the pre-teen. One dinner meeting with him quickly turned into two. It was Richardson's idea to nominate him for a seat on the board.

"He's already a proven fundraiser," Richardson said, "and he has so many ideas."

Mesfin said during the very first board meeting he attended he kept quiet for the first hour, not sure what to say. He quickly got over his shyness. "The next hour I was like, I need to say something, and so then I just started naming out some ideas."

Richardson says his fresh perspective is welcome on the board, and he has already contributed with unique ideas and quality feedback.

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