Nearly 900 University of Miami students volunteered on Saturday throughout 29 different sites during National Gandhi Day of Service, an annual event inspired by the late spiritual and civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi.
This year’s service day engaged a variety of students who wanted to make a difference in the Miami-Dade community with different service experiences.
Sophomore Heather Sanchez, a commuter student, said that it was her first time participating in a service day at UM, but she was ready and excited to help.
“I hope that I can just help as many people as possible in whatever ways I can,” Sanchez said.
During the opening ceremonies, Director of the Miami Institute for the Americas Felicia Knaul encouraged students to take advantage of opportunities like Gandhi Day, because the service she participated in during her youth impacted her even into adulthood.
“It will mark the rest of your lives and it will help others. It is all about making our community better as part of a global community,” Knaul said.
Freshman Torrey Crosby, who previously participated in the Butler Center’s Orientation Outreach, said that he looked forward to improving the community for those who don’t have the “same opportunities that UM provides.”
National Gandhi Day of Service is the largest campus service day, and it grew in size this year. This year, students served a total of 29 organizations, increasing from last year’s 18.
Sophomore Simar Puri, who was in charge of logistics for the service day, attributes this to “a spark” that comes as a result of participation.
“It has the potential to be a formative thing. I think that it’s a terrific way to get out there, see the community around us and its needs and places, where we can maybe develop our own organizations to help. It’s just a great spark,” Puri said.
Sites this year varied from serving the homeless with the Miami Rescue Mission to mentoring at-risk young men in underserved communities with Empowered Youth. Some of the sites even reached far beyond the Miami-Dade community.
Senior Sarah Hudson, a three-year Gandhi Day volunteer, said she served at the Ronald McDonald House and was taken aback when she realized that hundreds of international families are hosted by this organization in Miami.
“It was moving to see how spending a mere two hours with a nine-year-old Colombian boy who left his country for his older sister’s operation could bring such joys to his day. All we really did was play PlayStation 3 and paint,” said Hudson, a Miami native. “It really is the little things that make a huge difference.”