National Gandhi Day of Service

Gandhi Maharaj

National Gandhi Day of Service

Mahatma GandhiNational Gandhi Day of Service is an annual event that brings together college students of all different backgrounds to provide service to their community in the name of Mahatma Gandhi ‘s values of compassion and equality. The event was first held at the University of Michigan in 1997. After drawing hundreds of volunteers to a variety of community service projects, the event was expanded across the country by an organization known as SAALT (South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow). The national event is now held at several colleges across the country, including our very own University of Miami. The first National Gandhi Day of Service at the University of Miami was held in 2003 and had only a few dozen participants. The event has grown steadily in size ever since, allowing last year’s event to draw out more than 1,000 student volunteers. According to Nazia Salam, a member of the Gandhi Day 2008 Executive Board, “The greatest thing about Gandhi Day is that it provides the opportunity for people of all different nationalities and backgrounds to take part in a meaningful day of service.”

The day of service begins with registration and opening ceremonies that include multiple cultural performances and an inspirational speech from a keynote speaker. The cultural aspect of the program allows the volunteers to learn more about other cultures and developa global perspective. Previous performances have displayed the energy of bhangra and the flair of salsa dance while getting the crowd of volunteers excited about the day. In past years our keynote speakers have been representatives of service related organizations such as Rotaract and SAALT. Through their speeches, they have conveyed the meaning and importance of service to our communities. All participants are provided with free breakfast and t-shirts at the beginning of the day. The t-shirts encompass the message behind the entire event by bearing Mahatma Gandhi’s words, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” After the opening ceremonies, the students are directed to buses, which take them to their volunteer sites.

University of MiamiIn past years, the University of Miami has sent volunteers to over 40 different sites in the Miami area. The planning committee places emphasis on providing a great diversity of sites that give attention to issues ranging from the environment and education to poverty and homelessness. These sites allow student volunteers to interact with patients at a nursing home, clean up a beach, plant trees alongside Miami River, teach autistic children how to ride horses, and take part in many other service activities. Past volunteer Joana Ochoa says, “It’s a great thing that we are able to bring this many people together for a good cause and help out so many agencies in the Miami area. It reminds people that we should be able to give at least one day of service to our communities.” In just one day, the University of Miami provides over 3,000 hours of service to the community.

 National Gandhi Day Most students at the University of Miami begin their involvement with National Gandhi Day of Service their freshman year of college. In a new environment, college students are very excited to take part in a campus wide event. Since Gandhi Day is held close to the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, it is early in the academic year and thus allows it to be one of the first opportunities for college students to volunteer. After participating in the event and witnessing the impact that is made on other students and the community, students often decide to become more involved. Student leader Pravin Patel claims, “Gandhi Day is a major service project that serves to open the eyes of the youths that will grow up to become the future leaders of tomorrow. Gandhi Day also stands for things like unity and culture. I wanted to be a part of the planning committee because it would give me a chance to help put together Gandhi Day, in a way that would help pass these ideas along.” Students can elect to be a site leader for the event or be a part of the Executive Board that plans the entire event. Site leaders are given training before the event and are responsible for providing the best possible service to the sites where their groups are volunteering. Executive Board members, on the other hand, areresponsible for planning every last detail of the event, including sponsorship, recruitment, and the logistics of the day.

Each year, the Executive Board begins working six months prior to the event in order to improve each aspect of Gandhi Day and make it more successful than ever. Executive Board member Abdullah Abdussalam says, “I think this year’s Gandhi Day is going to surpass past events because we are not settling for past achievements. We want things to be ten times better. We are looking for improvements in areas that we might not have looked to change in the past.” This year specifically, registration for the University of Miami students has been made online and the format of the day has been modified. Changes are made every year to accommodate the increasing number of participants and to make the day run more smoothly and efficiently.

This year’s National Gandhi Day of Service will be held at the University of Miami on September 20, 2008. Students will be meeting at the University Center to register and spend the day providing service to the community that we call home. The event has fostered leadership and volunteerism in the name of one of the most respected leaders in the world, and will continue to do so for years to come.responsible for planning every last detail of the event, including sponsorship, recruitment, and the logistics of the day. Each year, the Executive Board begins working six months prior to the event in order to improve each aspect of Gandhi Day and make it more successful than ever. Executive Board member Abdullah Abdussalam says, “I think this year’s Gandhi Day is going to surpass past events because we are not settling for past achievements. We want things to be ten times better. We are looking for improvements in areas that we might not have looked to change in the past.” This year specifically, registration for the University of Miami students has been made online and the format of the day has been modified. Changes are made every year to accommodate the increasing number of participants and to make the day run more smoothly and efficiently.

This year’s National Gandhi Day of Service will be held at the University of Miami on September 20, 2008. Students will be meeting at the University Center to register and spend the day providing service to the community that we call home. The event has fostered leadership and volunteerism in the name of one of the most respected leaders in the world, and will continue to do so for years to come.

Janki Amin is a senior at the University of Miami, and she is majoring in biology. In 2009, Ms. Amin will be starting medical school at the University of Miami. Ms. Amin has been co-chair for National Gandhi Day of Service at the University of Miami for two years, and she enjoys being involved on campus with service and cultural activities.