More than 500 University students met Saturday to show that Mahatama Gandhi”s spirit for social change is alive and well.
Students gathered on the Diag Saturday morning to take part in the 5th annual Gandhi Day of Service, sponsored by the Indian American Student Association and Project SERVE. Established at the University in 1997, Gandhi Day of Service expanded to a national level in 1999. This year more than 40 universities and organizations across the nation participated.
“We started it to promote Gandhi”s values through community service, to honor him and the community at the same time,” said Reshma Shah, IASA service co-chair. “It gets students, namely freshman, interested in service and brings them back to participate in other University service organizations. (Gandhi Day) helps them understand that what they do is really something important.”
“The whole point is to get people involved in a lifetime commitment to community service,” Project SERVE member Megan Memmer said.
Volunteers were divided into teams and sent to one of 20 different sites in the Detroit area, adding up to more than 2,500 hours of service. Projects included cleaning up the Huron River and helping out at Riverview Nursing Home, the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and the Chinmaya Mission.
Before the volunteers left, a brief ceremony took place on the Diag.
With the Sept. 11 attacks in mind IASA political awareness chair Abhishek Aaphale emphasized the reality of current problems caused by intolerance and urged that non-violence could “rectify all injustices.”
“Tolerance is my greatest teacher,” he said, quoting Gandhi.
E. Royster Harper, the University”s vice president for student affairs, encouraged students to take an active role in social change.
“We must think about the kind of world that we want,” Harper said.
Following this precept, students said they were able to walk away with worthwhile experiences.
Engineering senior Vinay D”Souza helped out at Recycle Ann Arbor”s ReUse Center, a nonprofit organization that restores used items for resale.
“Once we got into it people started to like what they were doing. I volunteered at Recycle Ann Arbor two years ago, and I am impressed to see how much it has improved through volunteer work,” he said.
“We always enjoy being a part of Gandhi Day. They always send sweet people who are willing to do anything,” said Ann Smith, volunteer coordinator at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.
D”Souza added that the service students completed strengthened relationships both inside and outside the University community.
“It is always a good experience meeting new people through these kinds of events,” he said.
“You definitely feel a sense of accomplishment in terms of giving back to the community,” said Supriya Kelkar, IASA service co-chair.
Not everyone was pleased, however. Some students taking the Law School Admissions Test in Mason Hall on Saturday complained that music being played on the Diag interfered. Kelkar and Shah issued a joint statement of apology and said they found out about the complaints only after the fact.
“We want to apologize to all the students who were taking the LSAT. … It was never brought to our attention that the music being played was disturbing the students at that time,” they said.
LSA senior Negin Saberi, one of the students taking the test at the time, said she and others plan to write a letter to the LSAT Board of Review.