Gandhi Day of volunteer service to be hosted Saturday by Butler Center

Gandhi Day, an annual day of service organized by the University of Miami’s Butler Center for Service and Leadership, will bring undergraduate and graduate students together to participate in a variety of community service opportunities this Saturday, Oct. 2 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The National Association for Music Education at the University of Miami cleaned up the Olinda Elementary School in Brownsville, Fla. and painted their office on Gandhi Day, 2019, the last before the start of the pandemic.
The National Association for Music Education at the University of Miami cleaned up the Olinda Elementary School in Brownsville, Fla. and painted their office on Gandhi Day, 2019, the last before the start of the pandemic. Photo credit: The University of Miami NAfME chapter

The Butler Center has held Gandhi Day for over 20 years to allow students to interact with and participate in a variety of service organizations ranging from environmentalist initiatives to poverty aid.

Some of the activities planned for this year include a river clean-up with the Miami River Commission and food distribution with Bridge to Hope, an organization that helps feed Miami residents battling poverty. Participants will also have the chance to assemble care packages with the NAACP.

The majority of the planned activities require no extensive background experience in community service and organizers encourage all students interested in volunteering to participate.

“We want to create an event that allows students to connect with the community outside of campus,” said Devarsh Desai, a senior majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology and co-chair of Gandhi Day.

This year’s event will be the first in-person Gandhi Day since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Desai said he believes it signifies a return to normal community service activities after nearly two years of limited opportunities due to COVID-19 regulations.

“COVID kind of ruined student involvement for a lot of people,” Desai said, adding that he hopes this year’s Gandhi Day will get students excited about volunteering again, despite ongoing regulations designed to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

According to Desai and Greeshma Venigalla, a senior majoring in neuroscience and co-chair of Gandhi Day, the virus has prompted both the university and the charities participating in Gandhi Day to impose restrictions on the activities that will take place.

For the first time, organizers will limit the number of students allowed to participate in off-campus activities. Some activities have also been moved to on-campus locations, such as the assembling of care packages.

Although the pandemic has changed what the event will look like, those involved with planning said they believe it will remain a positive experience for students.

“In our first year back, I hope we can still make a meaningful impact,” Venigalla said.

Both Venigalla and Desai emphasized how important it is for students to be involved in community service during their college years, adding that while Gandhi Day is an opportunity to give back, it is also a fun experience for everyone involved.

“My first Gandhi Day was kind of like a field trip,” Venigalla said. “I met so many people during my first volunteering opportunity.”

Walk-ins are welcome for any students that have not yet signed up to participate in Gandhi Day. Check-in begins at 8:30 a.m. on UM’s Coral Gables Campus Saturday, Oct. 2. Email ddd86@miami.edu or gxv220@miami.edu to answer any further questions about the event.