“Nonviolence is not a garment to be put on and off at will, its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our being.” –M.K. Gandhi

The Gandhi Service Fellowship is a year-long internship for Rochester-area undergraduate and graduate students to explore how nonviolence may be applied to a social justice issue they are passionate about. It includes training in nonviolence and regular meetings with Gandhi Institute staff to develop and implement a project.

Gandhi Service Fellows:

  • Design and implement a service project aligned with their course work and passion
  • Gain understanding of nonviolence as an internal, interpersonal, and structural approach to social change
  • Learn through service alongside colleagues and community leaders
  • Receive mentoring and budgetary support from Gandhi Institute staff and board members

Check out 2016-2017 Gandhi Service Fellow Janine Burge (RIT) on WHEC-TV here. And learn more about The Swaraj Project, created by former 2015-2016 Gandhi Service Fellow Siri Chillara (U of R) that has continued into last year.

Siri just wrote us in December, 2017:

I’m currently in Israel at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies researching hydrogen production for vehicles and studying how cross-border environmental cooperation can build peace in this region. I’m applying the needs-based approach and nonviolent communication techniques I learned from you (more than I thought I would).

Learn about our 2016-17 Gandhi Service Fellows:

Alexandria Brown

University of Rochester,
English & History

GSF Project: UR Stars in Service

My project for the Gandhi Fellowship includes emphasizing and exploring the relationship between the University and its dining, facility, and transportation workers.  I feel that they have a special distinctive identity not only as employees of the University, but also a dual-identity as members of the greater community of Rochester.  My plan is to provide an annual event/platform for University employees to speak or present something important to them to the student body.  

Janine Burge

Rochester Institute of Technology
Psychology, Urban Studies, Sociology, Anthropology

GSF Project: I am excited and honored to accept this fellowship opportunity at the Gandhi Institute. My exploration will be on the subject of body image, as so many people need to make peace with their body, but on their own terms and not the terms that would drive us toward destructive actions. There are so many options for peaceful body esteem and this message needs to surpass what is currently out there, which is unobtainable and unrealistic messages on social media, especially for young people.

Rachel Ellison

University of Rochester,
Public Health & Philosophy

GSF Project: Work to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS among minorities through education.

Jay Gillette

Monroe Community College,
Liberal Arts

GSF Project: My fellowship project involves designing and testing methods to get kids involved in the prevention and intervention of bullying/violence among peers in Rochester schools.

Andrew Mekhail

University of Rochester,
Political Science & History

GSF Project: Exploring and documenting the relationship between the African-American community and the police in Rochester.

Ori Yehezkely

University of Rochester
Psychology & ASL

GSF Project: Collect winter clothing and foods for homeless shelters around Rochester and publish interviews to dispel the stigma around homelessness.

Past Gandhi Service Fellows in Action:

Husain Bawany organized the Coexistence Dinner and Dialogue, an event that brought together students and administrators from Rochester area colleges together in dialogue about their different faith traditions.       

Fatima Bawany worked with Rochester community refugee youth in her summer 2013 Davis Project for Peace titled Voices of Hope: Empowering the Next Generation of Refugees, which partnered with the Gandhi Institute and Mary’s Place Outreach to bring together refugee youth in programs exploring leadership, conflict resolution and service. Check out the University of Rochester’s article coverage of Voices of Hope here.

In 2013, Julia Polidore-Oakley and Anisha Gill launched the Nonviolence Youth Empowerment Project at Dr. Walter Cooper Academy in Rochester, using Gandhi’s and Dr. King’s Principles of Nonviolence. The projects initiatives were a multifaceted enriched curriculum, using a holistic approach to empower our young people’s minds, bodies, and souls. Nonviolence facilitators served as positive role models in the school environment, providing urban youth with tools and strategies to overcome and combat violent and negative behaviors.

Words from past Gandhi Service Fellows:

I study theories and abstractions in class. Working with the Gandhi Institute allows me to take that knowledge and use it with a commitment to love and truth in a project that empowers oppressed youth.


Joseph Gardella,
2009-10 Service Fellow

Working with the Gandhi Institute has been such a beautiful and worthwhile experience for me. I have always desired to achieve peace in my community, and I feel like I am one step closer to my goal after learning about the many forms of peace initiatives in Rochester. The journey to peace on Earth seems endless, but does not every journey begin with a few small footsteps in the right direction?


Faye Gura,
2010-11 Service Fellow

The M.K. Gandhi Service Fellowship opened my eyes to the practice of nonviolence in human relations. As a society, we must seek to understand the roots of violence before we can properly treat them. With the immense growth and comprehension gained from the Fellowship, I now feel more equipped to incorporate nonviolence practices in everyday life.


Michael Gulston,
2015-16 Service Fellow

As a native Pakistani, I had known quite a bit about Gandhi. But, I only learned about his passion for inter-religious and intercultural understanding after becoming a Gandhi Service Fellow. One of the first gifts I was given when I became part of the Institute was a book called Vows and Observances. After reading it, I was able to see how knowledgeable Gandhi was about other faiths and how he worked to incorporate all religions into his community, the Ashram, making people of all backgrounds feel welcome and respected.


Fatima Bawany,
2011-13 Service Fellow

During my service fellowship at the Cooper Academy, I was able to find peace working with the youth. Each week, I taught the students American Sign Language as a way to express themselves. Each week, the students built on from the last week. Eventually, they were able to construct sentences. Their enthusiasm to lead classroom activities as well as their dedication to learning new signs blew me away. I’m so grateful to be part of the Gandhi Institute because I was allowed to take part in such a fulfilling experience.


Anisha Gill,
2013-14 Service Fellow