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by Grant Barnes

[Editor’s Note: Since the devastating south-Asia earthquake tsunamis on December 26, the world has been reaching out with prayers, money, and support. Grant Barnes, the US Servas legal advisor, has gone one step further: he has written to Servas members he knows in countries affected by the disaster. We hope that the following excerpts from Grant’s letter to friends in Sweden will inspire you to write to Servas members you know who may have been affected. As Grant said in an email to me, “small acts of kindness and friendship such as writing a brief note can go a long way towards comforting people and supporting international peace and understanding, in the same way that visits to hosts bridge the linguistic, cultural and political gaps that so often divide us.” The editor-in-chief of the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter wrote a heart-felt response to a letter from Grant: Swedish speakers can read it on http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=147&a=362493]

“… It is with the deepest sense of grief, sympathy and condolence that I'm writing you as one of many Servas members throughout the world who share your concern about finding as many vacationing Swedes as possible and who want to share their outpouring of shock and grief at the large numbers of Swedes who have been lost.

Servas is a community of intrepid travelers, and it is likely that everyone in Servas Sweden knows of someone and families that were vacationing over the winter holiday in Thailand or in other countries bordering the Indian Ocean and, one fears, too, that Servas hosts and travelers may very well be among the missing.

… I go to Indonesia frequently and know Thailand well, so my thoughts are with those open-hearted people; I can't imagine the situation they're facing for many years that calls out for financial contributions like few other natural disasters in our life times.

… When we know someone we are conscious of when they're hurting, even though they're far away and the source of the pain hasn't been visited on us.

… I know many individual Servas hosts in the U.S. are contributing to relief funds; you won't see the results of that charity in Sweden, so an impassioned note of condolence and empathy is the very least that we can do to show you that we care for and about you all.

Warmest regards, and our best wishes and prayers to you and all your loved ones in the new year.”


by Bob Luitweiler, owl@steadi.org

[Editor’s Note: More than 50 years ago Bob Luitweiler founded US Servas. Since then he has continuously been prominent in the organization, doing whatever needed to be done. Below, Bob reflects on the future of Servas. Re the first sentence: “servas” means “service” in Esperanto, an artificial language based on word roots common to many European languages.]

I believe the future hope for Servas is in bringing in some real SERVICE. By that, I mean much more then being a hospitality net that holds occasional group meetings and local dinners.

Servas will become a vital movement only if it attracts the younger generation. To tempt travelers to stay active, we need to establish on-going community programs embracing practical peace-building goals. What we have now does not tempt the younger travelers, and even many older ones, to remain Servas members because there is little to connect to. There is no end of local projects and local organizations concerned people can participate in: promoting better race relations, reaching out to refugees, helping the homeless, working on urgent environmental issues, and trying to better international understanding in practical ways.

Many of our Servas members are personally devoted to valuable peace-building causes that are not connected with Servas. For them, Servas becomes an afterthought, something to relate to when there is nothing better to do. Many people say to me, "Yes, I know Servas, perhaps when I make my next trip abroad I will contact Servas, but I already have friends abroad to visit."

That says to me that Servas, for them, does not offer anything other than a nice way to visit a foreign country. It has no connection with building a peaceful world, even less with the need for all of us to understand better how others are working towards a world free of the seeds of war.

In the past year, there has been talk of regionalizing US Servas: I feel that there must be a better foundation for such restructuring to succeed. If we had invigorating programs, not just hospitality systems, around the country, we would already know the active people who would jump at the opportunity to form a local region. But US Servas has drifted into a situation where it has lost the core energy that in the past inspired its members and excited the younger people who joined. The world has moved far in the more than 50 years since it started. It is a very different world today, a world that has moved on and in some ways left Servas behind.

There are people in the USA who would be excellent Servas leaders in every region, leaders who are deeply concerned with social issues, peace-building and the building of more community spirit in their own cities and regions. But until these concerns have a higher priority in Servas than hosting and raising money for our hosting system, I believe we will not have the foundation we need to build effective regional groups.

Please let me know what you think! I may sound pessimistic but in reality I am an incorrigible optimist. I am trying to build something here in Bellingham, WA, and hope that if it is successful it will encourage many.


US Servas will be moving from 11 John Street in New York City by the middle to end of 2005!! The building — home for the last 27 years — will become part of the Fulton Street Transit Center according to government plans. We are looking for new office space in New York City and we are also open to moving the National office anywhere in the USA.

If you know of a good place to locate our National office AND if you are willing to put together a proposal to be considered by the National Search Committee, then please contact the Committee at search@usservas.org or 212-267-0252. Proposals should include sample office locations, reasons to relocate our National office there, and how local Servas members will support us. We already have three cities working on proposals. We will keep the rest of you posted as we understand and know more.


The first ever Canada – USA Servas Conference is planned for August 5-8, 2005 at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, BC. The city of Vancouver and the surrounding area is one of the continent’s most beautiful and special places – we encourage you to schedule vacation time before and/or after!

The main conference on Saturday and Sunday will include a 1-hour US Servas annual business meeting. The principal theme is “The Travel and Exchange Experience.” There will also be activities related to increasing youth involvement in Servas and the role of peace in Servas. Plans include a Sunday morning event at the Canada-US Peace Arch.

In addition to speakers and workshop discussion groups, we will offer a variety of optional outdoor and multi-cultural experiences in the Vancouver area. These are designed to appeal to individuals and families of all ages, and will be scheduled before, during and after the weekend.

Inexpensive accommodation will be available on the UBC campus, ranging from single rooms with shared bath to self-contained suites sleeping up to 4 people. Rooms can also be booked at the same price before and after the conference for those wishing to see more of cosmopolitan Vancouver and the spectacular natural areas of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

All Servas members or potential members are welcome and encouraged to attend. For further information, contact Dan Rubin, the US organizer, at dancallie@comcast.net or 360-352-2161.


Ellyn Weir, JUSTEJW@aol.com

This is a "thank you letter" to an organization that has provided me with opportunities to make many memories and gain friends around the world. My family became a Servas member to repay my son’s debt: he went to Europe and stayed with many Servas hosts shortly after high school graduation. When he returned he had many stories to tell regarding these visits and the people who had so warmly invited him into their lives.

He felt our family would benefit from being hosts and so began our journey, one I have never regretted. Our hosting began in a Chicago suburb in 1983, and continued in Philadelphia in 1985. Moving boosted hosting: more travelers came to Philadelphia than Chicago. Soon my apartment hosted visitors almost weekly.

Sometimes we had 5 guests sleeping on the couch and floor: each brought something new to our life: stories of their families, dreams for their futures, new customs to learn. All increased my awareness of the world around me.

Over the years I’ve watched these visitors graduate from their studies, enter various professions, marry and start families. Meanwhile, my life changed too. A wonderful man who asked me to marry him was a little taken aback with all the strangers who came into my home. Before we married, he promised to support being a Servas host, and we continue to host as a couple!

When I tell someone about Servas, I find that the explanation that Servas is an organization dedicated to peace does not begin to tell how Servas can impact their lives. Servas provides an opportunity to become part of the world, not just part of the community. It gives you a chance to show how you live, what you believe in and extend a hand in friendship.

It gives me an opportunity to tell others that as a citizen of the U.S. I am allowed to disagree with my government. That I probably want the same things for my family as my guests want for theirs. You learn to care about your guest’s homeland because you now have a "live" connection to that country: when the Berlin wall came down I called my Servas friends in Germany. There were many discussions with my friend from Denmark prior to the European Community and the Euro. A Servas traveler from Hong Kong brought views on now being a Chinese citizen. When 9/11 happened, I received numerous calls from these friends extending their sympathies and support.

Many of my visitors have long passed the guest status and are now are dear friends. With email, snail mail and the telephone regular contact continues to increase this feeling. This year I have been ill: as this information has been spread among my friends the support from many of these "Servas friends" has been beyond belief. Just recently a four-day visit from my Danish friend helped lift my spirits - his sixth visit since we first met back in 1985 on a Servas visit. Suggestions for meditation and alternative medications have come from Germany, England and Australia.

As Servas seeks new ways to promote its mission of peace I think it is important to emphasize how each visit can create an opportunity to extend this mission by extending our hand in friendship and learning to be tolerant of each other. Perhaps our mission seems overpowering initially, but when you look at it as just one person meeting another perhaps the mission can be accomplished.


By Shelley Walden

[Editor’s Note: Early in 2004, US Servas sponsored an essay contest offering the winner a spot at this year’s annual UN NGOs (United Nations Non-Governmental Organizations) Conference. Here is winner Shelley Walden’s report on the Conference.]

On September 8th I entered a room of people who believe that by 2015, hunger can be halved, gender disparities can be eliminated, the spread of HIV/AIDS and malaria can be halted and child mortality rates can be reduced by two thirds. And these are only half of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that they are trying to accomplish. In other words, I had the profound privilege to be in the presence of people who believe in their dreams, believe in each other and believe that compassion will ultimately triumph over greed.

These UN affiliated nonprofit representatives, who numbered more than 2,000, filled the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York City, where they were gathered for the opening ceremonies of the three-day “Millennium Development Goals: Civil Society Takes Action” conference. These representatives would spend the next few days evaluating how the world has progressed on the MDG’s and learning what they can do to ensure that these goals are met.

If someone had told me this time last year that I would be sitting in the main meeting place of the UN among these distinguished representatives, I would never have believed them. After all, I am a recent college graduate, and as such I am lucky if I can gain admittance into an employment agency, let alone the center of world government. But as winner of a US Servas essay contest, I was attending this year’s annual UN NGO Conference, sitting in one of the most prestigious buildings in the world. And to top it off, I was surrounded by professionals who could give me valuable insight into the nonprofit field, which is where I hope to work.

The conference began with a speech (given via video) by Kofi Annan. But his speech was only the tip of the iceberg; for the next three days I would hear impassioned addresses from various development figures and journalists from throughout the world. One of the highlights was the speech given by The Earth Institute economist Jeffrey Sachs, whom I had learned about in my college classes. Sachs spoke of how the US is funding war rather than peace. He said that this year alone the US will spend about $450 billion for the military and only $15 billion on international aide to fight global poverty, environmental degradation, and disease. This $15 billion is not only 30 times less than the amount spent on the US military, but also 60 billion dollars short of what the US had promised to spend on international aide, according to an international agreement. While other parties have met their promises to contribute the agreed-to percentage of their GDP, the US has fallen short of its commitment. Sachs stressed how development is related to security and how the US government’s spending priorities will ultimately lead to an increase in terrorism. This was reaffirmed by Farida Allaghi, the senior adviser to the President of the Arab Gulf Programme for UN development organizations, who said, “The street children that we have failed to help in the last twenty years are the same ones who are picking up the guns now.”

During the conference, I also attended several workshops, such as “The Role of Spirituality in Peacemaking and Conflict Resolution.” This particular workshop made me realize the importance of Servas, for it stressed that success in conflict resolution comes when people tell their stories and interact with each other. Servas allows us to do just this, and to celebrate our differences, as well as our similarities, in the process. As one of the workshop participants said, “We are one world — one soul.”

Each night after the conference was over, I would return to my home-away-from-home with my Servas hosts, Martha and Marvin Usdin. Their kindness and hospitality enriched my experience. They introduced me to Brooklyn, a beautiful part of New York that I was unfamiliar with, arranged for me to see a play and shared their Shabbat celebrations with me. Staying with Servas hosts such as the Usdin’s has given me hope that compassion can triumph over greed and that the MDG’s can become more than just optimistic dreams.


* Send a prepaid Phone card to the New York Office.

* Write to Servas members you know who may have been affected by earthquake or tsunamis.

* Send a generous donation to the NYC office.


[Editor’s Note: Thanks to California resident Diane Baker, a Servas member who forwarded this information from Michio Nagamatsu.]

During May, 2005, a cycling tour during Japan’s Expo ’05 is planned to promote a clean environment and a peaceful, healthful society - despite aging members! Many of these cyclists have years of experience: the oldest, Stan Jackson is 91; leader Keith Edwards is 69, leader Hideki Yamamoto is 70, sub-leader Kojiro Kureyama is 69 and the planner, Michio Nagamatsu, is 52.

Over 3 weeks, cyclists will ride 600 km through some of Japan’s famous, beautiful, and/or historic cities. As of October, 35 cyclists have registered for the event: 22 Australians, 12 Japanese and 1 American. Here are a few highlights of the planned tour - except where noted, all involve cycling: Expo ‘05; Morning Tea Ceremony (no cycling) in Australian Pavilion; historical Kyoto; Osaka, Osaka Castle and 1971's Osaka Expo Park; to Kobe by ferry; Himeji and Himeji Castle; meeting with the Hiroshima Mayor and citizens; Peace Park; towards the end of the trip a festival in Nagoya will celebrate the sister-city relationship of Nagoya, Japan and Sydney, Australia.

How has this event come about? In part because of close relationships between Servas members in Japan and Australia. Sachiko Mori, a Servas host coordinator in Japan frequently hosts Stan Jackson, an Australia cyclist and Servas member. Michio Nagamatsu, another Servas member in Japan, is helping Stan plan this 600 km bike tour during Expo ‘05. US Servas members are invited to join the tour!

To learn more, contact Michio NAGAMATSU


snail mail: 73-3-202 Higashiyama Tomimoto Toyohashi Aichi Japan

phone: 0532 48 5377


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