The M.K Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence celebrated its 30th anniversary this month. The University’s partnership with the Institute began in 2007 when it came to reside in the Interfaith Chapel at the University. Originally founded in Memphis, Tennessee in 1991 by Arun and Sunanda Gandhi, the institute is centered around four pillars: Nonviolence Education, Restorative Practices, Sustainability and Racial Justice. The University of Rochester plays a significant role in promoting sustainability within the Rochester community at large by partnering with the organization on projects like the community garden.
Although the Institute moved to S. Plymouth Ave in 2012, the University’s partnership with the Institute continues in the form of an annual budgetary contribution and providing access to resources on campus. The Institute works with staff and student groups at the University on various projects and has provided training in nonviolence and conflict resolution through the University’s Medallion Program, the Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center, and Residential Life. Anyone can request facilitation of training and dialogue. The Institute has also been a community partner for the University’s Innovation Challenge where student teams compete to create sustainable solutions for problems that local organizations currently face. The Gandhi Institute’s problem statement for the Innovation Challenge involved increasing community engagement at their community garden to address the issue of food desertification in the Plymouth-Exchange neighborhood.
Student groups often volunteer their time at the Institute’s community garden, which is a 1-acre space with 26 gardening beds open to the public for harvesting. The Institute uses organic compost and employs permaculture principles. The garden serves as a source of fresh produce for the Plymouth-Exchange neighborhood where there are no grocery stores for fresh produce within a mile. Currently the main benefactor of the garden’s harvest is the Institute’s Food Share Program which is a free of cost food delivery program for residents of the Plymouth-Exchange neighborhood. The Institute is currently working on implementing the solution proposed by the student team in the University’s Innovation Challenge which involved focusing more on community outreach in the form of print marketing, social media and educational events.
The University’s Center for Community Engagement also partners with the Institute through its Rochester Youth Year (RYY) fellowship program, a three-year partnership through AmeriCorps. The current RYY Fellow is UR alumna, Christina Krewson ’21, who joined in August. Christina’s work at the Institute focuses on community outreach, especially increasing access to the garden and youth programs. Christina welcomes current students at the University to visit the community garden, participate in the institution’s events (in person or virtual), and pursue volunteer or service learning positions.
The University’s affiliation with the Gandhi Institute brings many opportunities for staff and students to contribute to the community in a peaceful and sustainable way and hopefully will continue to do so in the future.
Written by Hanyia Ahmed, Class of 2022
Picture of the M.K Gandhi Institute’s Community Garden