The first annual Gandhi Day of Service at Binghamton University was held Saturday, drawing in a crowd of over 50 students to participate in a garbage cleanup at nearby Aqua-Terra Wilderness Area.
The National Gandhi Day of Service is a nationwide event created by students at the University of Michigan in 1998. Since then, South Asian American organizations across the country have sponsored Gandhi Day events with the goal of promoting the values of Mohandas Gandhi, also known as Mahatma Gandhi, through service and civic engagement, coinciding with the celebration of his birthday.
Gandhi Day was organized by Delta Phi Omega, a sorority that promotes the advancement of South Asian women. In hosting the event, Delta Phi Omega collaborated with the Iota Nu Delta, Delta Epsilon Psi and Alpha Phi Omega fraternities, the Pakistani Students Association and the Indian International Student Union.
Sarah Samson, the social and fundraising chair of Delta Phi Omega and a junior majoring in human development, said the day was multifaceted.
“A lot of people hope to implement change on the campus itself, while also helping the greater Binghamton community,” Samson said. “Through our event, we not only show that this change is possible, but that we can promote unity and collaboration among different organizations.”
Prior to leaving for the service project, the leaders of Delta Phi Omega gave a presentation that outlined the meaning behind the event and the project itinerary. Gandhi’s most famous quote was projected onto the screen, serving as inspiration for the day’s events: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Armed with gloves and trash bags, participants dispersed throughout the park and removed everything from soda cans to old batteries. Trevon Ferguson, a sophomore majoring in political science, said he quickly realized the event had a much greater significance than simply beautifying the Aqua-Terra Wilderness Area.
“By doing these park cleanups, you’re not only volunteering, but you’re helping the entire environment — which, honestly, is being destroyed right now,” Ferguson said.
In addition to aiding the environment, Gandhi Day brought a variety of students together and strengthened bonds among BU student groups. Laura Miller, a senior double-majoring in psychology and anthropology, is the president of Alpha Phi Omega and said she is very passionate about Gandhi Day and what it means to the BU community.
“We are always looking to collaborate with other members of Greek life, especially interested in community service events,” Miller said. “I hope Gandhi Day will become a tradition, as it allows organizations, Greek or not, to serve our community on both the large and small scale.”
As the Aqua-Terra Wilderness Area cleanup came to an end, participants continued to haul old televisions out of a ditch and load them into their own cars for removal. The students ate lunch together and reflected on their volunteer experiences with their new friends from other organizations. Chanda Bhandal, a sister of Delta Phi Omega and a senior majoring in English, was a main organizer of Gandhi Day and said she saw the event as a successful start to what she hopes becomes an annual event.
“As the first Gandhi Day at BU, we are really happy with the turnout and we can see a sense of unity has developed, which is the goal of promoting Gandhi’s legacy,” Bhandal said.
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