Mahatma Gandhi said “Whenever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love.” In Rochester New York on South Plymouth Avenue is home to M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence. A transformative non-profit whose mission “is to help individuals and communities develop the inner resources and practical skills needed to achieve a nonviolent, sustainable and just world.” I had the honor to visit this magical place and interview Co-Interim Director Gwen Olton to learn about this special non-profit.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King Jr.
The institute was founded in 1991 by Arun and Sunanda Gandhi. Arun is the fifth grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. The institute combines the Gandhian principles of truth and nonviolence with Martin Luther King’s Beloved Community in justice for all people. M.K. Gandhi Institute embraces and practices nonviolence along with teaching others the skills and tools to live nonviolently. The mission focuses primarily on youth from 12 to 24. Core values of creating sustainable living, how we care for one another, starting small to see what works and what will grow out to flourish and survive are embedded in how staff partners with their community and local organizations, academic institutions, students, and committed peacemakers.
“In a gentle way you can shake the world.” Mahatma Gandhi
Another nonviolence advocate, Barbara Deming, described the two hands of nonviolence. One hand is used to block harm. The other hand says I care about you. The combination of these two hands constitutes what Gandhi called “the greatest force on earth.” The four pillars of the M.K. Gandhi Institute are Nonviolence Education, Restorative Practices, Environmental Sustainability, and Racial Justice. These pillars intersect while focusing on filling gaps and building skills in different areas. Two staff of the institute are assigned to work with the Dr. Charles T. Lunsford School (School 19) and the Enrcio Fermi School (School 17), Providing support with resolving conflicts, restorative practices, social emotional learning, professional development and providing a nurturing presence to students and staff.
“At the center of all nonviolence stands the principle of love.” Martin Luther King Jr.
This year the M.K. Gandhi Institute is partnering with the Cornell Cooperative Extension for their Seed To Supper Program. Seed to Supper is a “comprehensive beginning vegetable gardening curriculum designed for adults gardening on a budget.” Staff, volunteers, and community members are learning how to grow delicious, nutritious food in raised beds. The Gandhi Institute is located in a neighborhood with low access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The rest of the garden is open to any community members to harvest from or rest and play in. Surrounding the Institute are beautiful flower and vegetable gardens, picnic tables, a labyrinth, wall art, budding fruit trees, a children’s play area, and hellos from staff filled with warmth and welcome. This space intentionally provides connection and community to all who want to come and all who want to come are welcome with open arms.
“There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.” Mahatma Gandhi
The M.K. Gandhi Institute offers workshops on a variety of topics such as conflict de-escalation, dialoguing across differences, technology and social change, collaborative group processes,, cultural humility, grief circles, understanding hate, and listening as an act of social change. They offer facilitated dialogue spaces for challenging topics such as the connections between masculinity stereotypes and violence, racism in our communities, and poverty.All workshops are interactive, intentional, and aim to provide safe spaces for participants. The staff run book groups, have community dinners, garden work parties, and yoga in the labyrinth. Gwen said play is incorporated into much of the work at the M.K. Gandhi Institute, helping to stimulate creativity, imagination, and joy while working to build a world that works for all. Staff spend time in community with each other. Being there for each other. Allowing for radical feedback which encourages dialogue about what is working and what is not working. Staff values the strengths and weaknesses of each other and accepts each person for who they are.
“Let us live together in peace and focus on a beloved community.” Martin Luther King Jr.
It is with honor we shine the Kindness Champion Spotlight on the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in Rochester, New York. A special non-profit filled with incredible people who are teaching skills of nonviolence and sustainability with love, kindness, compassion and hope. We thank you for being you and bringing your awesome to the world.
For more information on this amazing non-profit here is their information:
Facebook: @ROCNonviolence https://www.facebook.com/ROCNonviolence/
Instagram: @rocnonviolence https://www.instagram.com/rocnonviolence/
Twitter: @RocNonviolence https://twitter.com/RocNonviolence