The M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, an internationally recognized institution, will soon move its headquarters from UR’s River Campus to the Plymouth-Exchange (PLEX) neighborhood to expand and deepen its connections with the Rochester community.
Once the house is renovated, the Institute will move from the offices at the Interfaith Chapel to a century-old, two-story house on 929 S. Plymouth Ave. The renovation, which will be completed in a few months, will delay the official move-in, according to Kit Miller, who is the director of the Institute.
“There is just no physical space for people to sit in our offices anymore,” Miller said. “I don’t really have a way for volunteers to come to UR.”
The Institute’s expansion of its outreach programs has led to limited space and offices for workshops, classes and seminars. This has propelled the institute to find another location in closer proximity to campus, and also closer to the community. The renovated house will offer more office and community-oriented space for visitors and students.
“The University is a stakeholder in this community, and the fact that the Gandhi Institute has made an effort to expand the University’s role in the community serves to strengthen this relationship,” senior Alykhan Alani, student representative of the Institute’s board of directors, said. “It also makes the resources available through the institute more accessible to the community and in turn brings concerned students and community members together.”
“For whatever reasons, some people are intimidated and uncomfortable about attending events on campus,” Institute George Payne program coordinator said. “So we want to break down the barriers and make people feel welcomed at the Gandhi Institute and make it as easy as possible for everyone — not just the students — to get involved.”
The PLEX neighborhood is about 10 minutes walking distance from the Riverview Apartments, so the move is not expected to be a hindrance to UR students. “It really doesn’t feel like a move away,” Miller said.
The Institute’s house will be a new gathering place for students and international interns who wish to stay for some time. Likewise, Joseph Gardella, Kauffman Entrepreneurial Year student and one of the Institute’s non-violence education for at-risk youth project service fellows, views the move as an essential and vital extension of community outreach. “Now that we’re in the community, there’s going to be more effective community outreach, non-violent communication and effective change of culture,” Gardella said.
The M.K. Gandhi Institute was founded by the grandson of Mohandas K. Gandhi and established its headquarters at UR in 2007 to promote humanitarian ideas of nonviolence through education.
One of the Institute’s main goals is to restore justice in schools and courts. Instead of imposing punitive justice, the Institute tries to help people understand the consequences of their actions and embody nonviolence.
“Nonviolence is the human face of sustainability,” Miller said. “We need to figure out new ways to resolve conflict and teaching nonviolence is a practical strategy for sustainable governance to go forward.”
The Institute faces the challenge of reaching out to city youths to get them to understand the meaning of nonviolence. They believe that moving into the PLEX will help to combat this conundrum.
“I am glad that the Institute is moving because this will encourage students who rarely venture off-campus to explore the PLEX neighborhood and others that border our campus,” Alani said. “The Gandhi Institute is an integral component of our vibrant campus, but it is also a community institution. No other institution on-campus offers such genuine and intimate experiences with the surrounding community based on applied and theoretical principles of nonviolence, sustainability and compassion.”
The Institute will celebrate its new headquarters and Gandhi’s birthday on Sunday, Oct. 2, from 2-5 p.m. at 929 S. Plymouth Ave. The party will be a zero-waste event featuring live music and is open to both the UR and Rochester communities.
Kim is a member of the class of 2013.