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Aging Action Initiative United Together For Change  By Matthew Estipona, Community Organizer
Marin Center for Independent Living (MCIL)

Grandparents impart on us subtle, meaningful and lasting traits that define us. I start my day by reading the print newspaper, drinking a black coffee and going on a morning walk.My grandfather taught me these routines and the values I hold dear: to be kind, humble, work hard and to honor past generations through advocacy. My name is Matthew Estipona and I am proud to take these values with me as a supporter, coalition member and committed advocate for Aging Action Initiative’s Advocacy Alliance. Although I am new to working in Marin County, I have been welcomed and blessed to be part of such a passionate, knowledgeable and driven group who are committed to implementing positive change for older adults.  

In my capacity as a community organizer with the Marin Center for Independent Living, I will be providing coalition building and advocacy support while also infusing the perspective of the issues that people with disabilities face every day in our community. In my previous experience, I have led legislative and electoral campaigns and worked with nonprofits serving the Filipino community. I envision leading similar efforts for the Advocacy Alliance in addition to promoting activism at the intersectionality of race and disability. 

While the pandemic revealed how unprepared we are to protect our most vulnerable, it taught one invaluable lesson: we are stronger when working together. Only through collaboration, establishing strong partnerships and by identifying shared values can we find the right solutions to solve our most pressing issues. Our communities face daunting challenges from finding and creating affordable housing, to ensuring there are individuals who can help care for them, to guaranteeing that our government can protect us in the event of a disaster. One voice is powerful but countless more united calling for change can create a movement. I believe that together, by uniting the voices of older adults and people with disabilities, we can address these issues and produce lasting change. 

In the short amount of time I have been working with the Advocacy Alliance we have already embarked on those efforts, from soliciting issues from key stakeholders to learning from our local government what is being done to help our unhoused individuals who have mental health issues, we are starting the journey to advocate in tandem with each other. Looking forward, we will cement our ideas for change into concrete legislative proposals, meet with our elected officials to find common ground and empower our communities to advocate for them on the ground level. Change takes time, but what brings me hope is that our community is resilient, patient, open to new ideas and determined to seeing things through the end. That is the key to ensuring that older adults and people with disabilities are able to find housing and have the resources they need to live with dignity in the community they call home. 

The values I learned from my grandfather drew me to working in advocacy along with my personal experience as an individual with a non-apparent disability and as a family caregiver who has seen up close the inequities experienced by older adults and the disabled community. I realized that the issues my family faced are not unique and are only going to affect countless more individuals throughout our state. To change these systems for the better it takes a holistic understanding of what affects all of us and a vision to guide us. Change starts here, in Marin County through the Advocacy Alliance and I am excited to what we accomplish together.