UM students embrace community service

Photo: Diego Meza-Valdes/University of Miami
By Ashley A. Williams

Photo: Diego Meza-Valdes/University of Miami

UM students embrace community service

By Ashley A. Williams
Nearly 400 students participate in the National Gandhi Day of Service, the largest annual service day aimed at helping organizations across South Florida.

James Lai, a sophomore biomedical engineering major, has always been motivated to serve others. So much so, that as a sixth grader he created his very own nonprofit organization. When he enrolled at the University of Miami he had already worked with 31 different non-governmental organizations.

Now the recruitment and retention officer of the National Gandhi Day of Service organization, Lai is proud to continue giving back to the community he lives and learns in.

Last Saturday, a total of 372 UM students fanned out across 27 locations in South Florida as part of UM’s largest annual community service day.

 

After meeting at the UC Patio for breakfast and being bused to their designated service site, the students went to parks and beaches for cleanups, served meals to veterans, helped restore natural habitats and build homes for the elderly. They went to nursing homes to interact with residents and put up Halloween decorations at the Miami Children’s Museum.

Both Lai and Gandhi Day vice president Meghana Chapalamadugu, a junior majoring in neuroscience, were thrilled with the turnout for the event.

“The idea is to foster a sense of civic engagement in the students and get out of the UM bubble for a while,” Lai said. “Yeah, it’s great they go out and do this one day of service but ideally it sparks passion and they go back to some of the sites that they felt passionate about afterwards.”

Students spent several hours at the various locations and finished the day with lunch, live music and Servicefest, where community partners and other service organizations have the opportunity to reach students.

“The planning of this was a prominent part of our fall semester, so it’s rewarding to see everyone go out, come back and hearing people talk about how much they enjoyed this experience,” Chapalamdugu said. “Seeing the smiles on their faces, it’s just really rewarding to know that you were able to organize something that impacted someone’s experience at the University.”

The service day, organized through the Butler Center for Service and Leadership, is held within two weeks of Gandhi’s birthday, which is Oct. 2, in order to honor his legacy as an advocate of positive change.