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On Wednesday, May 30, 2012, Arun Gandhi was the featured speaker for the Niswonger Foundation’s summer training program for their Niswonger Scholars.  Mr. Gandhi is the grandson of India’s legendary leader, Mahatma Gandhi.  He spoke on the topic “Lessons I Learned from my Grandfather.”

Growing up under the apartheid laws of South Africa, Arun Gandhi learned from his parents and grandparents that justice does not mean revenge, it means transforming the opponent through love and suffering.  His grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi, taught Arun to understand nonviolence through understanding violence. “If we know how much passive violence we perpetrate against one another we will understand why there is so much physical violence plaguing societies and the world.” Gandhi states.

Arun Gandhi shares his “lessons learned” with audiences around the world.  In addition, he is involved in social programs.  He and his late wife, Sunanda, spent almost 30 years in India working with friends to help the oppressed and abandoned children using his grandfather’s philosophy of SARVODAYA – the “Welfare of All Citizens.”  During these years, they rescued and found homes for almost 130 abandoned children and developed several economic programs that successfully changed the lives of thousands of impoverished people.

In May 2008, Arun Gandhi launched the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, in the United States.  This institute was established to promote community building in economically depressed areas of the world through the joining of Gandhian philosophy and vocational education for children and their parents.  The Institute has embarked on an ambitious program to help eradicate poverty and human degradation.  Gandhi states: “Poverty is the worst form of violence and must be tackled on all fronts to ensure human rights and human dignity to those who are victims of societal exploitation.”  

The initial priority of the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute is to rescue children from the poorest sections of Indian society who are the first to become victims of crime.  The second priority is to build an institution that serves as a shelter as well as a learning center where the rescued children will receive basic and vocational education.  The third priority will be to help the graduates of this center establish a small business or find them suitable employment. The fourth priority is to work with the impoverished parents of these children to see how best the Institute can help the family get out of the poverty that consumes them. 

Arun Gandhi addressed a gathering of the Niswonger Scholars during their summer leadership training at the General Morgan Inn, in Greeneville.  Niswonger Scholars are chosen primarily for their leadership potential and commitment to the betterment of themselves and their home communities.  Niswonger Scholars may select the college or university of their choice. They are required to participate in leadership development activities and encouraged to pursue internships and study abroad.  Most importantly, they commit to return to Northeast Tennessee for at least one year of service in the career of their choice for each year they receive scholarship support.  The hope is that by enabling these students to pursue their academic passions and by cultivating their leadership abilities, they will return to their homes to be leaders in their professions and a catalyst for future change in Northeast Tennessee. 

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