Originally titled “Gandhi Day” in honor of the world-famous leader Mohandas K. Gandhi, “Be The Change Day,” held on Saturday, was an opportunity for students to get involved in various community-based activities.

“‘Be the Change Day’ is an annual national volunteer day inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, that people all around the nation get together and help out their communities,” ADITI President and senior Princy Thottathil said.

UR has been participating in this national day of service since 1999.

This year, the event was co-organized by ADITI, Sigma Beta Rho Fraternity, Inc., Charles Drew Pre-Health Society, the Interfaith Chapel, the UR Medical Center’s Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association and the Rochester Center for Community Leadership.

“The name change was orchestrated in order to appeal to many cultures, besides just Indian, which was the original target audience of the event,” SBR President and senior Dana Eisenberg said.

Students signed up at the Wilson Commons Common Connection to volunteer at the events.

Approximately 70 students helped out at several sites, including the Salvation Army’s Rochester Headquarters, Cobblestone School, 19th Ward Community Association and one of the Neighborhood Empowerment Team offices, starting at noon on Saturday.

“SBR participated in both 19th Ward House tours as well as in the 19th Ward Community Center – we helped clean up the neighborhood across the bridge,” Eisenberg said.

In addition to doing the community service, the students also spent some time reflecting on the community-based activities.

“This year’s goal was more than just doing community service – we also wanted to educate the volunteers and foster thoughts about community and taking strong leadership,” Thottathil said. “Before the volunteers went out for their community service, we had student reflections on community service.”

The community service activities were then followed by a cultural dinner, catered by the Thali of India Restaurant, held in Douglass Dining Center. Profits from the dinner tickets were donated to the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund.

Guest Speaker Hanif Abdul-Wahid, community liaison to Neighborhood Initiatives for the Monroe County Department of Planning and Development, lectured about the responsibilities of community leaders and the accomplishments of such community-based efforts.

“We had about 154 people attend the dinner,” Rochester Center for Community Leadership member and senior Julia Shmoys said. “A lot of people worked around the clock behind the scenes, but considering this event was planned in a very short time frame – the planning committee only started meeting nine days before the event. I think the event was a huge success.”

Those who participated agreed. “I thought Gandhi Day was a huge success and a lot of fun,” freshman Puja Sood said. “It was nice to spend time with other members of the organization and at the same time help out in the community. The speaker was brief, but spoke very well and related some interesting anecdotes from his life.”

While the turnout this year was better than previous years due to the collaborative efforts of the various organizations, next year’s turnout is expected to be better, since some of the planning for next year has already started.

“Hopefully next year there will be over 100 volunteers helping our community – we all owe our services to the neighborhoods we live around and benefit from,” Eisenberg said.

“It was great to see that so many students made time in their busy schedules and came out to support the cause,” Thottathil said. “Every volunteer who participated this past Saturday helped make a change for the better in the Rochester community. Their time and their work were truly appreciated. Saturday was proof that students can do so much. They not only joined fellow Rochester students, but students and volunteers across the the nation in one simple mission – be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Sridharan can be reached at asridharan@campustimes.org.



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