UM-Dearborn students volunteer at Gandhi Jayanti Day event

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By SARAH MARTIN, News Editor

The University of Michigan-Dearborn Circle K International hosted Gandhi Jayanti Day, or “Day of Gandhi” October 21st in celebration of his birthday. The event lasted from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and shuttled students to various volunteer organizations across the Detroit area.

“Gandhi’s birthday, which is Oct. 2, is the International Day of Non-Violence,” said Jonathon Gavia, the founder and previous president Circle K International. “We asked ourselves, ‘What’s the best way to represent what Gandhi did?’ And our answer was volunteering.”

A total of six volunteer activities were available for students to participate in. One of the volunteering activities was with Helping Hands, a service that “helps Michigan citizens facing economic hardship find the services they need.” Such services include job training, family support, housing, etc.

Sixty-five students volunteered at food bank organizations such as Mercado Foods Hub, Keep Growing Detroit, and Bed & Bread.

Other events such as blanket making and card making were available on campus and donated to those in need.

Gandhi Jayanti Day began at UM-Dearborn 17 years ago, but faded around 2010.

“My fiancee Drashti and I brought Gandhi Jayanti back through the Indian American Student Association (IASA) that was originally founded it in 2015,” Gavia said, “We discovered the event on the old university calendar, investigated it, and learned the details through Dr. Reetha Ravendran who was the Director of the Office of Student Engagement at the time.”

Tarun Aggarwal, the current President of Circle K International, helped bring back the event through Circle K. Gandhi Jayanti Day had been previously hosted by the IASA, but they did not re-register with the university in Fall 2016 due to declining membership. This year is Circle K’s first year hosting Gandhi Jayanti Day.

Circle K International belongs to a parent organization called Kiwanis, which according to their website mission statement, “focuses on changing the world by serving children, one child and one community at a time.”

“There are different club levels of Kiwanis,” said Renee, advisor of the Key Club of Edsel Ford High School and Circle K International at UM-Dearborn, “Elementary kids are in K Kids, Builders Club for middle school, Key Club for high school, and university is Circle K.” According to Renee, each level has an advisor that serves as a mentor, but all of the planning and event running are handled by students.

“Our goal is to mentor into leadership through community projects,” she said, “One year the kids did a peanut fundraiser and raised over $41,000. At our international event every year, these kids will plan events for 4,000-5,000 people—and they do an amazing job of it!”

“‘Live to serve, love to serve,’ is our motto,” said Gavia. “I grew up volunteering and for me I don’t need a reason to volunteer. That was the way I was raised and I want to give back to my community.”

Aggarwal offered advice to those interested in joining or making a difference: “If you enjoy helping people, then that’s the greatest enjoyment. And if you have the passion and compassion you can change the world.”

To learn more about Kiwanis, visit Kiwanis.org or mikeyclub.org. If you are interested in joining or learning more about Circle K International at UM-Dearborn, visit their Facebook page or contact taruna@umich.edu.