My name is Yolanda Rodrigues. I am a student at the Washington Adventist University, majoring in Nursing.

I’m originally from Cape Verde off the coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean. In the community where I was raised, cooperation is the watchword. There is much joy in building relationship between neighbors, in sharing, in working together.

When my family and I first moved to the United States, we found a community in our religious group, but it was not enough; we missed the relationships between neighbors. Outside of my church, it was hard for me to find a community. Actually, it seemed to me almost impossible to reach the community here, until earlier this year, when I witnessed a community coming together and walking through our neighborhoodIt was what I had been searching for since leaving Cape Verde.

I want you to imagine the day of the AIM community walk.

Picture this: It was so hot that our faces were shiny with sweat. We met under the awning of the neighborhood elementary school. Community leaders used a megaphone so they could be heard. There were maybe thirty of us who started, but with each stop, more and more neighbors came out and joined until we were a group of nearly seventy walking. There were three County Council members who joined us for the walk. 

Along the way, residents of the community shared stories at various stops.

They talked about the broken sidewalk which made it hard for our brothers and sisters in wheelchairs to get around. They talked about the lack of parking and street lights that don’t work which made it hard for neighbors returning from the night shift to get home. They also talked about the lack of safe spaces for the children to play.

Our County Council members, in turn, responded. 

This community walk opened the eyes of our elected officials to both the pride the neighbors felt but also to the challenges they faced. 

During the walk I met neighbors with whom I could speak French and Portuguese, the languages of Cape Verde.

That day on the walk, I felt at home in America for the first time. I felt that nothing is impossible if we come together, if we are united.

Action in Montgomery is a network of faith and non-faith institutions that work together to build power to make sustainable change in our local communities. By coming together, united with our neighbors, AIM has won:

  • High-quality, free, after-school programs for 1,200 students in 10 of our highest-poverty public elementary schools.
  • Over $725 Million to build over 15,000 units of affordable housing for our seniors and low-income residents.
  • $30 Million to rebuild four community centers in historic African-American neighborhoods in Montgomery County.

One of the things I love watching AIM do is build bridges across so many divides. Religious/non-religious, political/non-political, public/private entities—all coming together, because of AIM, as one unified voice to make our community a better place.

Thank you, members and supporters of AIM, for your generosity, and for understanding the power of love to transform and build power for our local communities so we can realize ourvision of what our community can be.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.”

This Giving Tuesday, as you imagine the world you want to create, consider making a difference by sharing a gift with Action in Montgomery. Because of AIM, I found a community and a home in my new neighborhood in America. Your gift will help my neighborhood continue to build power to make things better for our residents. 

I believe that by coming together we can change the world.

Thank you,
Yolanda Rodrigues

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